32 Dakars and counting!
Jean-Luc drives the BFGoodrich® truck workshop which provides the Dakar Service Center’s tyre fitting service. His mission is to steer the BFGoodrich®-liveried Renault Kerax from one overnight halt to another via the itinerary specified for auxiliary vehicles.
“That works out at between 300 and more than 1,000 kilometres per day,” he notes. “As a rule, we hit the road at around midnight or one in the morning and reach the next bivouac early the following afternoon, before the first competitors show. Our first job is to set up all our gear and BFGoodrich®’s hospitality facility.”
When not on rallies, Jean-Luc works as a driver and tyre fitter in the world of MotoGP motorcycle racing, essentially attending tests, but also some races. “For me, though, nothing comes close to the atmosphere and spirit you get on the Dakar, or in cross-country rallying in general.”
Jean-Luc discovered the discipline back in the 1980s. “At the time, I was attending a motor mechanics course and our school built cars to take part in the Dakar, including the Renault 12 driven by the Marreau brothers. Two years later, in 1986, I travelled on the Dakar for the first time as part of Jean-Louis Schlesser’s service team.”
In addition to having been a mechanic and driver over the years, Jean-Luc has also co-driven. “In 1988, I was the navigator in one of Georges Groine’s trucks. We had an official entry in the ‘rapid service’ class. We came second, I think. And we were third in 1990.”
“My best memory of the Dakar was in 1992. We were part of a convoy of eight trucks that lost its way and we got stuck in soft sand several times in the Mauritanian desert. We were stuck for 53 hours! But I’ve got so many other recollections. Some good, others not so funny; tales of people working together to get out of difficult predicaments; meals sat on the ground with drivers; long evenings around a fire in a bivouac; sleeping in communal tents; etc. But that’s what makes the Dakar what it is.
“The event has obviously changed since its move to South America, but the weather, high altitudes and pace make it just as punishing. Last year, driving through Bolivia was complex for everyone but it revealed just how bonded the BFGoodrich® squad truly is. I’m really looking forward to celebrating my 32nd Dakar with the same team of guys in January.”