The eye of the Mexican tiger

Dakar 2024 | Stage 4 | AL SALAMIYA > AL-HOFUF
January 9 th 2024 - 11:13 [GMT + 3]

There are three Mexicans on this Dakar: a biker, as well as Daniel González Reina and Jorge Hernández Calva, who are taking part in their first Dakar in an SSV. The bearded co-pilot looks like a teddy bear, the type of friend that you just have to take along for the ride, despite the fact that he comes with a slight defect: as soon as the sun sets, he snoozes off, quite literally! It is beyond the craziest dreams!

Daniel and Jorge are children of the Baja 1000 and were national champions on 4 wheels when they tried out the neighbouring Sonora Rally in 2022, before going back in 2023. Determined to succeed, Jorge convinced Daniel to tackle the Dakar, even without the helping hand of the Road to Dakar challenge which they had set their sights on. From the deserts of Baja California to the Empty Quarter that awaits them, Jorge remarked two differences early in the morning on stage 4: the rocks and the cold. “I love racing, but I hate camping. Here, when we wake up, we haven’t slept well and we have to set off racing, then start again tomorrow and for the next ten days… but that’s why we came out here. We are used to the Baja 1000, but we weren’t expecting so many hundreds of kilometres of rocks and such cold. Everybody thinks it’s a hot desert here, but it’s freezing. I’m so tired, I could just literally lie down and sleep on the ground!”

To face such hardship, Daniel had planned ahead. In his tent, as well as a quality sleeping bag, he has an accessory straight from Mexico: a tiger blanket. “This is my grandmother's blanket, the warmest thing you've ever seen in the world. I thank her for teaching me how to use it. It's a type of blanket sold at fairs and bazaars in Mexico. Everyone in the country has a blanket like this somewhere. On them, some have an eagle, a wolf, always wild animals that don't make any sense. When I knew it was going to be cold, I remembered my grandmother's words. I had one of these on my bed when I was a kid, and I told myself I needed to take a tiger with me. It's harder for my mate because he doesn't have one”.

Jorge, the driver, has not complained too much about his night’s sleep, but rather the power steering on their SSV, which gave up the ghost yesterday and still has not been repaired, meaning he will have sore muscles by the end of the day. The fact that his co-pilot fell asleep along the way? That is just by-the-by. “My co-pilot has the quirk of falling asleep as soon as it gets dark. During a race when I'm driving, in any situation, he might fall asleep. I realise this because I get caught out by bends and hazards, and then I look at him and see his head bobbing about. I then have to take care of the navigation so that he can have a nap. Yesterday, on the final 170-km link section, I think he slept for 169 kilometres. But he's a good co-pilot... when he's awake!”

It is a weird trait, but one that Jorge does not seem to have problems with: “I missed the tiger blanket in the car last night, it was so cold”. If Daniel and Jorge manage to reach the finish with their Polaris, they will be the first 100% Mexican crew to finish the Dakar. One of their countrymen already did it in 2014, but with a North American driver. If they succeed, it will because Daniel will have managed to open his eyes when Jorge’s were closing. No doubt on the podium Jorge will proudly brandish his blanket, the one that has kept a warm-hearted watchful eye over them, the famous eye of the tiger!

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