Be the tortoise, not the hare
Dakar 2023 |
December 30 th 2022 - 09:17 [GMT + 3]
Carlos Checa wants his second Dakar to be a fun learning experience, but the former Superbike world champion will need to curb his enthusiasm to make it so.
Carlos Checa took his sweet time to go through the technical scrutineering, making sure to capture the final hours before the start. Once he got his card stamped, he even smiled for the cameras with his new co-driver, Marc Solà. He is here to get every last ounce of fun he can out of the race —par for the course for the 50-year-old Catalan, who has had a blast ever since he began his career in motorcycle road racing. He took up Grand Prix racing in 1993 and spent two decades in road racing, picking up seventeen podium finishes in the premier class, two 500 cc Grand Prix victories, fifth place in the 2002 MotoGP championship and, of course, the 2011 Superbike world championship with Ducati. Even though he quit road racing ten years ago, Carlos Checa has never left the world of motor sports altogether. The aviation fan has continued to sate his hunger for competition with the occasional rally, sometimes on a motorbike, sometimes in an SSV. "I won the Panafrica Rally with Polaris", he explains. "I did the Baja Aragón, the Merzouga twice…" And then, last year, Carlos signed up for the Dakar, a race he used to watch on TV as a little boy. He registered for the T1.2 category. "I have too much need for speed to even consider entering such a fast race in an SSV", admits the former MotoGP racer. "I love SSVs, but only in short races. You need a decent amount of horsepower to have fun in long, fast stages. I don't really understand why the cars are limited to 170 km/h." No need to despair, though: off-road racing has plenty of challenges in store for drivers in search of adventure, such as finding the right track or tackling turns that are never quite the same as the ones that came before… The polar opposite of his routine as a road racer. "I also like to bask in the atmosphere of rally raids", he adds. "My friends Nani Roma and Marc Coma introduced me to this world. I actually did some tests with them in Morocco back when I was a motorcycle racer." However, he rules out tackling the Dakar on two wheels. "I find it too dangerous and have no desire to get hurt", he explains. "I can understand taking risks in a bid for glory, but putting yourself in harm's way for no good reason… Nah, cars are great, I can get my fill of competition without the stress that comes with riding a motorbike." A two-week race is also a world apart from his usual sprints as a Grand Prix and Superbike racer. "We try to work out the details in the same way, but there are factors outside our control. The co-driver also plays a crucial role." For Checa, 2023 brings a new year, a new car —developed from a Century buggy prototype and tuned by SMC Motorsport—; a new team —Astara, based in Madrid— and a new navigator —Marc Solà. "It's a growing outfit with plenty of ambition", says Carlos. "Signing Laia Sanz was a shot in the arm for the team and I'm stoked to be part of the project. My objective is to keep learning and progressing. I'll try to do as well as possible while enjoying myself and performing in the stages without making any mistakes. The hardest part of the Dakar isn't going fast, it's going slowly when the terrain wants you to go slowly. It's not something that comes naturally to a road racer."