Hotel Alpha in Delta
January 11 th 2020 - 19:01 [GMT + 3]
Hubert Auriol became the first man to win the Dakar first on a motorbike (1981 and 1983) and then in a car (1992), a feat since repeated by Stéphane Peterhansel and Joan "Nani" Roma. "The African", who went on to serve as rally director from 1995 to 2003, visited the race in Saudi Arabia and took a trip down memory lane flying in the Delta helicopter.
The Dakar bivouac has been buzzing with reunions over the last three days. Hubert Auriol was invited by Motul to come and meet the bikers racing without support in the "Original" class and spent some time shooting the breeze with a bunch of old friends. As an aside between one memory of Africa and the next, the former biker took a trip down memory land after David Castera invited him on board the Delta race direction helicopter. "It was awesome", chirped the old boss upon reaching the bivouac in Riyadh. "I must have spent a thousand hours flying in that helicopter as race director over a decade. The vocabulary used to communicate jogged my memory straight away because it is still exactly the same as fifteen years ago". The various contacts that Castera interacted with went by code names consisting of their function and a number. For example, medical helicopter number 3 was hailed as "Mike 3". "Truth be told, I inherited a system that was already in place when I arrived and is still here today. If it ain't broke, don't fix it", continued the special guest on board." Everyone understands what is being said, all the messages and instructions. You need have a bit of a military mindset to be effective, keep the competitors safe and make sure the race runs smoothly".
The day spent soaring above the race also packed an emotional punch for Auriol, who met Castera when the latter was only twelve years old. Castera's father was Auriol's mechanic and, especially, friend during his career as a biker. "Once, back when David was starting his career as a biker, his father told me: 'You just wait and see, one day he'll compete in the Dakar with race number 100, just like you'. And now that I got to see him directing the race, I'm absolutely sure he has what it takes; the job fits him like a glove. You could even say he is the spiritual son of Thierry Sabine.".