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It’s a high-speed journey of 9,500km over 15 days and 13 special stages, with 24 fatal incidents involving competitors in 31 editions. Yet every year, over 400 drivers and riders plus an army of 2,500 people among support crews, event staff, press and others tackles the Dakar rally. Why? During the 2011 Dakar’s rest day, we search for answers from some of the sport’s biggest stars... 

CARLOS SAINZ (Spanish, defending winner and current leader in the Car category): “My reason to be in the Dakar is the same reason I had to take part in the hundreds of WRC rallies I entered during my career: the passion for motorsport and the desire to win. When I moved on from the WRC and began participating here, I had a clear goal to become the first Spaniard to win the Dakar, and I am very proud of having achieved that.”

CYRIL DESPRES (French, three-time winner in the Bike category, currently second in the overall standings - pictured above): “It’s a bit complicated, isn’t it? Being around motorcycles is simply what I’ve enjoyed the most since I was young. I began as a mechanic, then started riding on some enduros, then switched to cross-country rallying and it was in that discipline that I achieved my best results. I was lucky enough to be able to make a living out of it, and never asked myself too many questions ever since… I guess that the moment you begin questioning yourself why you are in the Dakar, perhaps your time to stop doing it is approaching.”

MARC COMA (Spanish, two-time winner and current leader in the Bike category - pictured below): “It’s a question I often think about myself, and I can’t really come to a clear answer. But the Dakar has been an integral part of my life for several years. This is my ninth Dakar, and my life revolves around it - around getting ready and working hard day after day to keep myself competitive and in a position to fight for the win. I’m proud to be part of the ‘Dakar family’, so much so that I see myself switching to cars after I retire from the bikes a few years down the road.”

NASSER AL-ATTIYAH (Qatari, 2010 Dakar runner-up and currently second in the Car category): “The Dakar has always been a childhood dream, and I worked very hard to achieve it. First my family pushed me to finish my studies, so when my father opened up the possibility for me to become a racing driver, I took that opportunity very seriously and really pushed myself to be able to compete on a very high level. We have lots of good drivers in Middle Eastern rallying, but they tend to struggle when competing outside the region. So I tried to compete abroad as much as possible, to gain experience and improve my level, and I feel very lucky and happy to have achieved the level of driving for a team like Volkswagen Motorsport”. 

VLADIMIR CHAGIN (Russian, six-time Dakar winner in the Truck category, currently 2nd in 2011): “This is my 18th Dakar, and each of them was different from the others. The Dakar puts together the best cars, trucks, teams and drivers in the world, and to be part of that is in itself a motivation. Of course, the biggest motivation of all is to be on the podium but just being here is already a big pleasure. I think all the people in this bivouac just couldn’t live without the emotions of the Dakar”. 

(Tomorrow, the views of Giniel de Villiers, Nani Roma, Luc Alphand, Kris Nissen, Ruben Faria and Firdaus Kabirov).

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