Discover the stories of the Dakar's heroes Inside the Bivouac

The fuel of love

Dakar 2023 | Stage 9 | RIYADH > HARADH
January 10 th 2023 - 12:03 [GMT + 3]

 Nicolás Cavigliasso and Valentina Pertegarini in the SSV category plus Jacobine and Kees Kamp in the Dakar Classic are some of the married couples who enjoy the Dakar as a romantic and quite unique experience…

 The Dakar in a car is an adventure shared first and foremost between a driver and his or her co-pilot. Among the crews enrolled on the 45th edition, there are a good handful of couples who have decided to take the challenge hand in hand. Nicolás Cavigliasso discovered the rally alone and even triumphed in the quad category in 2019. At the time, the Argentinean surprised everybody on the podium, starting with his fiancée Valentina, whose hand in marriage he asked for in front of the world’s TV audiences. The scene lit up and moved the social networks. It can now be seen as the starting point for their registration this year in an SSV. “I wasn’t expecting it. I had no idea that Nico was going to do it,” she said. “He had promised himself that if he won, he would ask me to marry him. And now here we are, back on the Dakar to tackle it together. I’m no longer part of his assistance team, but his co-pilot”. Indeed, the champion’s betrothed was not unfamiliar with the world of the Dakar, because she helped him prepare the roadbooks at the time when they were still distributed the day before the following stage.

So, when the time came to change category and start a new career, Nicolás naturally offered the job of co-pilot to his beloved: “She said yes straight away. The first day when we went to test the SSV, it was also entirely new for me. I told Vale to climb on board to check out her first sensations in the vehicle, and it went very well. She read the roadbook expertly, without necessarily knowing all the symbols, so we continued the training together and here we are taking on the Dakar”. Although their SSV suffered from alternator problems on the first stage which prevented them from taking a place in the upper echelons of the rankings, Nico and Vale have cohabited perfectly in the cockpit: “We've been racing together for a year now, and I think we fight less in the car than we do at home! We're both very focused on the race and what we have to do," explains the co-pilot who already feels totally comfortable in her role. "I always say I sit in the car with my legs crossed, super confident in the way Nico drives, I'm not afraid of anything. I couldn't drive, I like to deal with the navigation... in these big dunes, I trust Nico 100%”.

For Jacobine and Kees Kamp, the Dakar Classic in which they are participating for the second consecutive year is far from their first adventure, rather the extension of a lifestyle dedicated to travelling and classic cars. Their honeymoon, which began in 1993 in a Peugeot 504, spread over one and a half years and four continents: “We went through Africa and the Sahara, India, New Zealand and Russia,” explains Jacobine. “That was thirty years ago and we have never stopped travelling. We have visited more than 40 countries in Africa, including with our children”. Their passion took another turn when they discovered the existence of the Dakar Classic on television and then seized the opportunity to recover an old Citroen CX, an exact replica of the one Jacky Ickx drove for his first Dakar.

Life during competitions involves other preoccupations, but with such a long complicity the atmosphere among the couple is not likely to be affected: “For our relationship, it’s even very good, because we have to be able to deal with all that. You need a good sense of humour and love… what else? Sometimes, he makes mistakes. For example, I’ll tell him, ‘be careful, there’s a rock there’ and he'll hit it, so I’ll say, ‘how stupid is that?’ Then, at another point, I’ll end up sending him down the wrong track and he’ll say ‘how stupid is that?’. In the end, we both make mistakes, but we cope well with it”. Unsurprisingly, Kees also believes that, “it’s the best way to experience the Dakar,” all the more so given that the two lovebirds have not set themselves any sporting goals: “We’ve often got stuck, we’ve had punctures, we don’t have the right car to hope to win the competition. I think we are in the last place but one, but we are really enjoying ourselves”.

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