Dakar Diary: The 3 Musketeers
Derek Alberts gives us an amusing glimpse behind the scenes of the rally.
"Voulez-vous coucher avec moi?"
This is the standard greeting procedure that kicks off the negotiating process when it comes to applying for accreditation at the Dakar Rally. Of course, there should be no negotiations whatsoever, given that the paperwork was done months in advance, but that's simply not the French way. In terms of communicating skills, Thamsanqa Jantjie is their god.
That's not to say we haven't enjoyed the French. They're highly frustrating, but at the same time, very entertaining. One particular security guard, a Patrick Vieira doppelganger who's always clad in camo and cradles his walkie-talkie as if were a Molotov cocktail, had a major run-in with a Romanian journalist, eventually screaming "Respect Moi! Respect Moi" at the shocked scribbler.
Since then, every time we bump into Vieira, we greet him with "Bonjour Respect Moi!", but never to his face, and only when he's out of earshot.
The "we" I'm referring to are my two colleagues and I, covering the adventures of the Toyota Imperial Team who are undertaking their third Dakar.
The third musketeer is Marc Bow of the Year, a former fashion photographer turned car-snapper who lives in Simonstown and is ambidextrous. I discovered this during one of our many stops where we played Dakar Golf - an extremely complex sport where competitors throw stones at a sign. All was going well until we had to switch to our "wrong hand". While Mapmeister and I resembled blind T-Rexes trying to toss a javelin, Mboty was Jonty Rhodes personified, hitting bulls eye each and every time.
Pic: Mboty photobombing me in front of the Monumento a la Bandera in Rosario, Argentina
When in the car, we pass the time compiling various lists such as Top Five Movies (Mapmeister, inexplicably, included Face-Off in his selection), and Top Five Bands (no question that my number one choice, The Killers, easily outguns Mboty's personal favourite, Wham!). We've also taken in the sights of beautiful towns such as Rosario, San Rafael and San Juan, but it all takes a backseat to our main objective - covering arguably the toughest race on the planet.
In sporting equivalents, the Dakar Rally is to cross country racing what the World Cup is to football, yet while the likes of Lionel Messi and Christiano Ronaldo are untouchable when it comes to the media, the superstars of the Dakar are amongst the friendliest sports personalities I've ever met. I even managed to interview defending champion Stephane Peterhansel on the side of the road, while the Dakar King ate his lunch from a brown paper bag. Defending champ Stephane Peterhansel and 2009 champ Giniel de Villiers
Defending champ Stephane Peterhansel and 2009 champ Giniel de Villiers
shoot the breeze on the roadside.
The same can be said for the Toyota Imperial team. 2009 Champion Giniel de Villiers is arguably one of South Africa's most successful sportsmen, yet he is down to earth and extremely friendly. His co-driver Dirk von Zitzewitz is German, yet if you took away his accent and love of beige, you'd swear he's a South African, such is his outgoing personality.
I've known navigator Rob Howie for quite some time, and while he's very mischievous "off the field", he's all business when inside the Hilux. Rob's taking part in his third Dakar, and has been barking out orders to new boy Leeroy Poulter. Leeroy has taken to the race like controversy to a firepool, and even headlined the official Dakar site when he finished stage three in third place. An astounding effort.
The team is a very close-knit unit, superbly lead by their general, team principal Glynn Hall. Glynn may be a taskmaster but he's highly respected by his staff, and has steered the team to third and second place respectively in the last two years of the Dakar.
First is the ultimate prize for 2014, but first, I hear he's keen to take on Marc Bow of the Year at Dakar Golf. I'll keep you posted.
For full coverage of the 2014 Dakar Rally click here