Dakar 2009: Photos From The Scrutineering
File under Dakar Race
Author: Mike Werner
Location: Normandy, France
As luck will have it for once in my life, I don't need to go very far to see a major motorcycle sport event. The Dakar is right next door to me, about 35 kilometers from my house.
The Dakar circus has arrived at the port city of Le Havre for the technical and administrative scrutineering, and then shipping by boat to South America, to start the race in January.
So this morning I loaded the BMW with cameras and cold weather gear and headed over to Le Havre.
Any motorcycle sport has a technical scrutineering. They need to check to see if your motorcycle is ready to compete. The Dakar is an enormously dangerous race, and therefore the scrutineering is very heavy. ASO, the organizers of the Dakar, have loads of experience, and they installed a circuit through an abandoned hangar at the Le Havre Docks.
Hundreds of staff walk around, all in different outfits and colors, depending on what they are doing. The scene reminded me of an aircraft carrier's flight deck.
NOTE: There are 44 photos and one video following, so please be patient, and let everything load.
Already on the road to Le Havre, you could see that the Dakar circus had reached town. Dakar cars where everywhere. On the autoroute, the petrol stations had several contestant cars filling up, or taking breaks.
Outside Le Havre in the harbor, the motorcycles had an area where they could dump their belongings into boxes that would be following them as long as they are still competing
Hundreds of boxes, each labelled with the contestant's number.
Crates were also filling up with spare tires.
At the docks, where the scrutineering would be held, the line of vehicles were growing, waiting for the moment they could enter.
Inside was where you registered and did the last administrative formalities (like making sure you had paid).
There were long tables set aside, each looking after their portion of the Dakar.
You picked up your satellite phone....
... the tracking devices (that allows us to follow the contestants on the Dakar web)....
... GPS and Sentinel devices (the device that beeps really loud when a faster vehicles is behind you)..
....Last administrative stop is insurance....
In the mean time, outside the amount of cars was growing.
At the motorcycle side, there were already several waiting.
Inside the hanger, no vehicles has entered yet, but you can see their capacity.
The are different stations, each for their own speciality.
The race and support trucks had all arrived early.
The first quads also arrived.
The motorcycle were stripped and ...
... they started installing the tracking devices, the Sentinel and GPS....
Scores of teams were working and testing the devices. You could hear the loud beeps everywhere.
Here's one KTM motorcycle with no sponsors, but a lot of friends...
Fitting the devices was not easy, and often caused problems.
Here's probably the one and only Kawasaki that had entered the race...
The Kawasaki's dash.
Once your devices were working, you got a sticker, and you were allowed to go to the hangar for the remainder of the checks.
Imagine, here you arrive with your spanking new car, you haven't even finished paying for it, and they drill holes in the hood to place the number tag on it.... bummer...
Dakar mechanics climb into every space to make sure everything is correct. If you have a problem, you have 24 hours to fix the problem. If not, you're out.
One Dutch Audi team was sent out, and they had started stripping their car in the car park...
There were some 10 bridges to lift the cars to have the bottom checked.
Numbers were stuck everywhere, including the roof.
The motorcycles have their own area.
Numbers are placed in the front and on both sides (and on the back of the rider).
They used hot air pistols to properly place the number plates on the bikes. No bubbles, all done very neatly.
More and more trucks started arriving. Most of the trucks were Dutch (the 2nd largest nationality in the race, the 1st being French).
The spare/maintenance trucks are jam-packed with boxes.
Then, more and more motorcycles started arriving.
All being stripped and the devices installed. Some brought their own mechanics to make sure everything was put back together properly.
Inside they were fitting the bikers with the new neck braces.
Another technical check they performed was sound levels.....
Maximum sound level authorized is 95 db (but they closed their eyes if you were one or two over).
Then a Dakar mechanic, using a check list, verified all mechanical functions of the motorcycle. Fingers were inserted in every orifice...
In the mean time, at the car side of things, the cars were stripped apart.
Computers were used to analyze the workings of the cars.
This is the support car for American Dakar winner hopeful, Jonah Street. Have a close look at where they are parked...
Finally, each contestant had 40 minutes to head to the loading area, 8 kilometers away. That was as far as I could go, since it's the parc fermee (the closed parking). Once there, you had to leave immediately. The vehicles would be loaded into the boat on Monday.
As you can see, none of the famous riders had arrived while I was there, and since scrutineering is 2 days, they will probably arrive tomorrow at the last minute, so sorry, no photos of the big names.
Tomorrow I'll publish a short video I made there.