“I tried to abandon her in the desert…”
Marco Leva and Alexia Giugni discovered the Dakar in 2023 and it was a wild ride for them. The Italian couple took on the Saudi desert aboard a Fiat Panda whose small motor naturally struggled with the dunes. Still, they made it to the end. And their adventures got them to meet with staples of the Dakar such as the R-Team of Renato and Cesare “Ricky” Rickler del Mare. With the Italian squad backing them, Marco Ernesto and Alexia return to Saudi Arabia in 2024 with another iconic vehicle, the Mitsubishi Pajero, and with bigger ambitions. They don’t want to just survive the desert. They’re gearing to conquer it.
M.L.: “Last year, it has been a big fight. It was our first time doing such an event, with a special car. It was a proper challenge and we’re happy to have made it. This year, our Mitsubishi is probably more adequate for this type of event and I hope I’ll enjoy myself more. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy myself last year, but the state of mind was always about bringing the car to the end.
I’ve always liked this car. I chose a first series because, for me, since it’s the Dakar Classic, the car needs to be classic. Too modern a car would make it a bit too easy. And when I see it, I love it.
Let me tell you an anecdote. Last year, towards the end of the race, we got stuck in sand and we couldn’t get out. There was a French truck for assistance who stopped. Alexia got out of the car, to make it lighter, and she said she’d climb back later… And I did 4 kilometres, leaving her in the desert! The French brought her to me. I tried to abandon her in the desert… But I didn’t succeed. But jokes apart, Alexia is a very serious and brave navigator.”
A.G.: “Our first Dakar was a bit heater skelter so we want to see if we can limit all the human sacrifice it involved, starting every day without any certainty we’d make it even to the half of the stage. We want to be more competitive, not just go on an adventure. And there’s a novelty this year: we’ll race into the dunes, so that makes it a new first.
The first year is to try. The second is to prove ourself. And on the third year we’re done with money!
I’m the most active in the family. I run, I swim, I ride my bike… When I’m in the Dakar, I miss the training.
But I believe the Dakar is mostly a mental challenge. Of course, the body is important, but if the head is not here, you can’t make it to the end. Last year, there was the rain, the mud, the cold... It was very hard so you had to be fully focused.”
- Marque MITSUBISHI
- Modèle PAJERO
- Préparateur R-Team
- Assistance R-Team
- Classe Classic Auto (Moyenne moyenne) 87-96
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