Since the creation of The Paris-Dakar Rally in 1979, I’d always dreamed of one day covering this extraordinary adventure.
Each year, I would follow the televised summaries of this rally race that traversed exceptional landscapes. So when I was asked to cover this event I didn’t have to think on it for long! It was with a feeling of excitement and trepidation that I embarked on this adventure.
I was warned that physically it would be difficult.
Life on the Dakar Rally is nomadic as every day we change camp. Using only basic comforts (sanitary and portable toilets), each night we pitched our tents in a noisy campsite, as all night the motorcycle, car and truck teams would repair and prepare the machines for the next day’s stage.
After transmitting our pictures for the day and after a brief shower (close to 2,000 people were in the camp), we would make our way to the mess hall for dinner. Under tents open to the four winds, competitors, journalists and mechanics came together in a relaxed atmosphere. The stars of the big teams are in the same boat, so it was not uncommon to eat next to the winners of 2011, Marc Comas et Nasser Al-Attiya.
That’s the spirit of Dakar.
The nights are short with a wakeup call at five in the morning. We must prepare ourselves in order to take off with our photo helicopters belonging to the Argentine and Chilean armies right at sunup. It’s a Bell helicopter like the ones used in the Vietnam war, in which five photographers are taken to cover the race. The media represented are Reuters, AP, AFP, the newspaper l’Équipe and the sports agency DPPI.