“Briefing, briefing...”. It is with these words that Marc Coma begins the daily briefing on the bivouac’s central stage. A five-time Dakar winner on two wheels, Marc is now the Sporting Director of the event and, having spent a decade listening religiously to these briefings, he currently finds himself on the other end of the microphone, accompanied by Xavi, who is in charge of preparing the road book.
In recent years, Dakar Rally Director Etienne Lavigne, former Sporting Director David Castera – now Cyril Despres’ co-driver – and event co-ordinator Xavier Gavory have taken to the famous stage in front of a 200 or 300-strong crowd composed of drivers, co-drivers and team managers... It matters little if it is raining or blowing a gale: in the bivouac, the briefing goes ahead every evening regardless.
“I remember one briefing that took place in Calama during a sandstorm and another in Jujuy last year, where everything was completely flooded,” recalls Xavier.
The briefing addresses both competitors and their support crews. The principal topic is the following day’s leg, as well as potential changes to the schedule or the route. It outlines the profile of certain sections of the route and the pitfalls to avoid as well as the weather forecast...
At the end of the briefing, competitors are given a code that activates their GPS to enable them to tackle the following day’s special stage. Some messages are intended more for the support crews, like any challenges along the route between one bivouac and the next, or border crossings...
The briefing lasts for around half-an-hour, is communicated in three different languages (Spanish, French and English) and generally takes place at 8pm. A second briefing is occasionally organised at 10:30pm for late arrivals.
Tonight’s briefing in Chilecito is particularly eagerly-anticipated, as the marathon leg and route changes have meant that the travelling Dakar family has been scattered far and wide since leaving La Paz.