A lot of things and situations can be prevented, but you can’t prepare for something. For example, the weather. Or terrorists.
Just like last year, the word safety is inflected this year as well. You can only get to the bivouac if you have a magic chip for accredited people on your hand, all cars pass through the gate through a camera, the police patrol important places. Everyone remembers very well how last year, even before the start of the race, a racing car exploded under still unclear circumstances and its driver Philippe Boutron was injured. Czech competitor Tomáš Ouředníček is also afraid of similar events.
“When I see what is happening in the world now, when in Barcelona we were ordered to remove the flags from the cars – they must not be on any racing car or motorcycle – I realized that the risks can be completely different than, for example, accidents. To be completely honest, I arranged everything in the Czech Republic as if I should not return. I’m not afraid that something will happen to us in the bivouac, but the police and the army can no longer watch over us on the track. And a European prisoner can be valuable prey for terrorists.”
It is easy that if someone who has someone close to the Dakar Rally is reading these lines, they may get nervous. Fortunately, Tomáš Ouředníček is alone in his fear of a terrorist attack.
For example, Martin Prokop is more afraid of technical failure. “There are things you cannot influence. If Viktor or I make a mistake, we can fight it, that’s what we’re here for, after all, but if the car lasts, if even a part for a few crowns doesn’t break, that’s what I’m most worried about. Historically, we know that you can drive really well, with your head and at the same time fast, but a technical failure will ruin even the best-started race.”
Another car racer, Karel Trněny, who made his Dakar debut last year, but the race ended for him in the fourth stage, says that he is most afraid of sand. “Yes, from sand. From those big sand dunes. I trained on them, I tested them, but then when I drive against that big sand dune, I wonder how it will turn out.”
Motorcyclists are most concerned about the weather. “I’m afraid of the winter,” says Jan Brabec after thinking for a while. “When you get up at four o’clock in the morning and drive some two or three hundred kilometers to the start in the terrible winter, as is the case here, I completely feel myself freezing, the cold creeping up to my bones, then I always ask myself what actually I do.’
And Libor Podmol speaks similarly, who is afraid of rain in addition to winter. “When you’re completely soaked, you’re cold, you’ve got water everywhere, and then you have to lie down in your tent in a puddle…”
David Pabiška, who has been listening to us the whole time, nods in agreement. “I have never prepared for the weather like this year. I have things for winter, for rain, everything twice and all the best.” And then he adds. “Winter and rain are bad. And then darkness. How do you repair for a long time somewhere in the race and then finish the stage in the dark. The light shines either into the sky or into the dune, but you really don’t even know what’s really going on, where you’re going, what’s going to happen.”
The last person I asked what he was afraid of was Martin Macík. “Fear? I am not afraid of anything here in Dakar. I have respect. But not fear.’
It’s a long marathon race in Saudi Arabia and anything can happen. But the truth is, anyone who has ever raced will tell you that fear is the last thing on their mind behind the wheel or handlebars. Because there is no time for fear in a race like the Dakar.