Six-times winner of the Dakar Rally has extensive experience with difficult terrain and also knows a lot about "racing".
Karel Loprais won the Dakar Rally six times. His nephew Aleš finished this year on the sixth place due to technical problems. But even so had Karel only words of praise for Aleš and the whole team.
How would you evaluate this year’s Dakar?
It was really hard. Organizers promised it before and the fulfil it. It was seen on apostates, their number was high. Marathon driving distances, height differences and enormous temperatures were demanding for all.
Two winning stages, one second and one third place. The guys didn’t lose in tough competition, didn’t they?
Absolutely. They were seen and it proved that if the truck works as it should, they can beat the rest of the world.
When did they the worst mood? Was it after the penultimate stage in which they lost a chance to fight for the podium due to technical problems?
I do agree. The loss was enormous, they couldn’t do anything. It’s a pity.
But they fought.
Exactly, it was seen in the last stage. The mechanics worked hard and the crew did the great job on the track. Although they started from the back, they managed to set the fastest time.
However, in the truck category they were fully compete even in the last stage. De Rooy competed with Karginov for the overall victory.
A lot of people think that the last stage is just a piece of cake, but it is not. We lost the victory in the last stage. They have to race on the Dakar until the finish.
They didn’t reach the podium. But did the Dakar bring any positives?
That is very clear. Such a test, they all passed, can not be simulated. The Silk Way Rally was the first test for the Queen 69, but it was completely new. Now came the long and demanding competition like the Dakar. They gathered a lot of data that they will be able to capitalize next time.
After yesterday’s tenth stage of the Dakar competition we again asked a few questions Karel Loprais, the truck legend, who won the toughest race in the world for six times.
Have you got a recipe for fesh-fesh?
There is no recipe.
Aleš probably found it, yesterday he won the stage.
That’s great! We were waiting for that for long time, finally it comes!
Aleš said that the team struggled with the truck settings. Is it really such a big deal?
The guys scored with damping in Iquique.
Winning kicks them before the remaining stages up, isn’t it?
This is needed, it came at the right time.
We can expect the battle in the truck category. Three Kamaz trucks attack the leading de Rooy.
That’s good. Such a competition would be the spice of each race. It is good, that someone chases de Rooy.
And Aleš is behind the Kamaz on the fourth place. Are chances to podium still alive?
It will be very difficult till the end, but as long as it’s racing a chance is still here.
In Tuesday’s stage finished the third Nikolajev only one second earlier before the fourth Sotnikov. Was it the team strategy, or did they really fight?
I would say they fought. Competitors don’t see each other on the track and don’t know what are the differences between them. And when they race that way, difference can be even this small.
Kamaz is on the first places in the each stage. Aleš said that they are really good in difficult passages. What does make them so good?
At the start they have five cars, now they have to choose from too. One car quitted, but I am sure it is somewhere around and racers can take from it what they need.
In the tenth stage had problems even the Kamaz – Sotnikov had a great loss. Aleš could move to the fourth place because of it.
We do not know if it due to technical problems or he got stuck in dunes. They are really tricky for everyone.
Organizers prepared for the participants in the final stages the sand and fesh-fesh. How to ride in this tricky terrain?
On Dakar there has each stage its guile. There is not guaranteed recipe how to ride fesh-fesh. The surface is constantly changing, you don’t know, where are you going to. You have to pass it, otherwise it will not work. I hope that guys will not be fed with anyone on the track and I believe that they will race good again.
How does it see Karel Loprais after the first half of the race Karel Loprais knows as the six-time winner the Dakar Rally very well. Therefore, we had some questions about it in the middle of this year:
Saturday was a rest day. What is actually regime of the team at this day?
The team can sleep longer, but they must do heavy maintenance on the truck. They do the essential things, they have to replace those things which mechanics see fit.
Do the members of the racing crew help?
They need to put together. If need be, they certainly help, but there’s enough mechanics. But the main mechanic that goes in the crew would be hanging around to know what they were doing at the truck.
And what about official meetings, for example with fans? Do they have time for it?
It depends on the place. In the South America there are rest days In the large cities, so there are many people. But teams do not have enough time for fans, they have to work on technique and gain strength. In our time we travelled without assistance, so we had to work on the truck. Despite the fact that there were not so many people in Africa.
The six stages are over. How do you assess them?
The organizers got tougher. This is reflected in the renegades who do not ride anymore. But basically the Dakar returns to the original tracks which I remember. The boys had two tough days. We drove the day stage, after it night stage and day stage again. Without time to sleep, without assistance. Now it’s hard but those who were ready go further. At our times the eight hundred kilometres long stages ran frequently. We came to the bivouac, went to sleep and next day just got in the truck and drove away.
Aleš loses an hour and forty minutes to the leader de Rooy. Is it any chance to do anything with it?
There are still many chances before the finish of the Dakar. Everyone could have some problems, even de Rooy. Nothing is lost.
Was anything interesting for you at this year’s Dakar?
There are high temperatures, in Africa there wasn’t. It is enemy of all.
Let’s return to the team, to the truck especially. The 4x4 dust was broken twice. How can it happen that the same fault recurs?
It just happens. I didn’t talk to guys, so I don’t know what was exactly wrong with the truck. We’ll se what they say.
Ando your forecast for the second week of the Dakar Rally?
If the technique will be right, it will be good. The crew goes on, you can see it on them.
Wednesday, January 8
Monsieur Dakar, as is Karel Loprais called thanks to his six victories in the Dakar Rally, watches this year’s 36th Dakar Rally from home. What does the Dakar legend say about performance of his nephew Aleš?
Aleš was on the second place in the first stage. What do you think about it?
In any case, it’s fantastic. They are all poised at the beginning to start as good as they can. The first time control point pointed it. Ten trucks in two minutes! An Aleš was ahead.
Aleš donated the symbolic silver to his new-born son Alex. How does such an addition to the family affect racer?
I think it’s encouraging. He has the son, everything went well. It just start him up, it has already has been seen.
What about the second stage? Aleš’s crew had to cope with difficulties.
This is Dakar. You cannot race without a problem and at rest, especially today, when the competition is strong. They all are pushing, going forward, as they can. But problems also affected the others. There were accidents, defects, something can always happen.
The crew had to go without a windscreen for a long time. Have you experienced this?
I have not, it would be like riding a motorbike… Seriously, in the dust and rocks it is not fun. And Aleš isn’t the type of racer who would hold far behind to not catch a wound. When racer needs to overtake, it’s a problem.
In addition, Aleš had to overcome dunes without all-wheel drive.
This is a fantastic performance to cross the dunes, though the front didn’t work. I experienced this just in situation we were not in the race. Be stuck on the dune would be end.
The loss is in tens of minutes. Can anything be done?
It was only the second stage. If this was a loss before the last stage, it would probably be no chance. But they have the race ahead, it’s open. I believe Alda can handle it.
De Rooy seems strong. He helped Merdejev but leads.
It’s disputed. It is said that he helped about a quarter of an hour and organizers subtracted 22 minutes. It just does not seem fair. In our times it was not like that. Who want to help, help without the right to subtracting the time.
What pitfalls had yesterday’s third stage? The race was at altitude of around three kilometres.
Technique loses power at that height. It is important not to make a navigational error, not to capture defect. The boys made it great. I keep my finger crosses and hope that this year it comes out.
Comment on 11 stages
Our tradition talk with “Mr. Dakar” continued with summarizing the eleventh stage and the situation around the decision of commissioners. Due to yesterday situation was offered to ask whether similar problems with the weather experienced the racers: “If the weather is stubborn, nothing can be done. Twelve riders got their time; the rest got the time of the last one. I personally think that it is sufficient. The organizers have done well, because safety comes first. It is true that it did not help Aleš, but nothing can be done. This is Dakar! Once this happened to us too but I don’t remember in which year it was. We drove through a critical section, one car behind us too. All of us got the time of the last one. Even Kamaz that had a technical problem and got to the finish in the morning. They managed to fix it and won the Dakar Rally. I think it was in 1996. It just is, the organizers are built with a fait accompli, contestants must understand. The organizers could cancel the stage or lean to what happened yesterday.”
We went back to the situation with the electric failure that cost us a great and the only loss: “We have to hope because there is still a chance. The Dakar Rally finishes with the last kilometre of the last stage. Anyone can get away even on the last day. They still face a nearly thousand measured kilometres. In 1991 we lost the victory in the final stage. We had the lead but then we burned the piston. We got to the finish but there was a time limit, so we got a penalty a were on the fourth place.”
So we hope that tomorrow we will be happy and we can praise by the evaluating today stage. “I hope so,” ended Karel Loprais the today meeting.
Comment on 10 stages
As you and also us got used to it, we regularly discuss the Dakar news with Karel. Remember, that in Tuesdays tenth stage lost Aleš first place because of a defect and the wheel changing costed the crew 503 about 20 minutes. From the results you figure out, that if the defect did not happen, then the Princess 69 would win the race and also with awesome lead to the second driver. With Karel, we immediately started to talk about all the aspects of this changing the wheel during the race: “Firstly we have to mention that everything inside the truck has to be well fixed. The disassembling itself takes a lot of time, plus of course the mounting back the material. The tire with wheel is quite heavy, so it is not easy job for the crew. The other important thing is the place where the defect happens. You have to lift the car, so the the structure of the terrain means a lot. It is big difference if you work on solid route or somewhere inside dunes. So it all depends on the decision of the driver, where he wants to stop and start repairing the wheel.”
In the overall standings discovered high the Russian Kamaz team which has three trucks in top five: “I don’t think it’s a big surprise. Russians are traditionally well prepared. Moreover bad luck and technical problems still avoid them. Everyone ride perfectly. Even their accompanying truck provides stable performances. It’s a great team and their budget surely too.”
We discussed, which profile line was the most suitable for Karel and which is according to him best for Aleš: “It is difficult to talk about myself, but I think that dunes suited us the most. Rider who wants to think of a good result in the Dakar Rally must be comprehensive. At the beginning the speed was not limited, later was the maximum speed 140 km/h and today it is, I guess, 140 km/h. Aleš is also a very universal rider. If I had to choose one line profile, which is the best for him, I think that yesterday. It has been seen that if he hadn’t the defect, he would be the best. I still believe in his shift in the overall ranking of the Dakar Rally.” We all believe too and look forward to more experienced talks.
Comment on 9 stages
Pleased by todays result was also Karel Loprais, who predicts a lot of thing, knows the race pretty well and has it deeply rooted in his heart. He said today smiling: “It is obvious Aleš got into cutting the loss very responsibly. We can cheer him for that. Anyone can be unlucky in here, even the best one. For example take look at De Rooy, what happened to him. Alda proved, that he is one of the best drives in the world and that this years Dakar is definitely not finished yet. It will be interesting and we are still in the game.”
Comment on 5 and 6 stages
“Mr. Dakar” took his time for us again, we talked of the competition and the events in the fifth and sixth stage. “Last two stages were for our team like on a swing. In the fifth the Dakar Rally showed the guile. Alš took a huge loss of nearly two hours and it radically changed his chances of winning. The sixth stage showed how fast Aleš is despite continuing problems with dampers. I get back to the electric defect at the end of the 5th stage. This is the worts type of fault that may occur. Whether it is the battery or charging, is always very difficult to find the fault. There are thousands of possibilities of what it could be. Of course, this can happen but unfortunately to our crew it happened at the most inconvenient time. Two hours are enough of course, but as we can see if he overtakes one truck, another falls away now it looks better. I will repeat a few times but the Dakar Rally ends in the finish and to it is still far away.”
We agreed, when it comes to Dakar we only agree with Mr. Karel Loprais. Then we talked about the events after the fifth stage. What does go through racers’ heads in such situations? We talked about that Aleš didn’t throw in the towel. Despite the unfavourable starting position he was rising in the order and he even led. Problems with dampers slowed him once again. “For Aleš it was terribly difficult stage. He lost the lead and had to start between the very slow trucks. It is no fun. As we can see boys have mastered even this inconvenience. And in the end it was a very good result. “ Because our fans began to argue a little bit about the choice of the dampers, our conversation turned in this direction.
“We have to realize that in the first 15 tracks ours is the heaviest. Just this fact means that the chassis and the dampers have to resist huge power. Plus Aleš tries to be the best, so he drives as fast as possible. If he was around the 30th place, the situation would be different. We have seen on many videos, that even the jumps are provided as good as can be. If you want to be between the best, you have to do it this way. Also the weather is hot and it is not good for the dampers. But despite all those troubles we see, that the drivers are still able to achieve those amazing places. The preparing for Dakar is hard- you never know, what to expect. Then you are here and realize, what is not that good, but you have to fight with it. You never make the same mistakes in the next year.”
Last topic of our conversation was incoming free day on Sunday. What does that mean for drivers and support? Will the guys go swimming in the sea? “Definitely no, even though the driver can afford it. Half of the whole Rally, that means a huge effort, both psychical and physical. Plus usually the day before break is the longest stage, so the drivers will finish after the sunset. Nonetheless the whole team is gonna work on the car as much as they are able to. It is necessary to repair the defects, but also to change the liquids and check all the screws. Change the dampers and tires, there is a lot of work needed to be done.”
We have seen how many fans sent their birthday wishes to Aleš because of his birthday. We were curious if Karel also sent some special greetings: “Of course I have done that, but only on the phone. I did not want to write him. The celebration is planned after the guys will come back and I hope we will able to connect it with celebration of a good result on the Dakar.”
We hope for that either and we would like to invite you to watch the next adventures called DAKAR 2013 through view of crew 503 as well as trough view of Karel Loprais.
Comment on 4 stage
The yesterday’s stage was extremely difficult and long. The stage tested the preparedness of the crews and their accompaniment. The overwhelming favourite, still invincible Gerrard De Rooy had two defects. Then he got stuck in the sand dunes and lost leadership. Our Aleš Loprais finished sixth in the stage and took over the leadership. Even Aleš had technical difficulties. Karel Loprais outlined more:
“Is wonderful that our guys have kept in leadership. The interim results look nice, but as I said, we are still in the beginning. Difficult stages are ahead. It’s a pity that Aleš left the dampers because he could get a bigger lead on De Rooy. He seems to me, despite the today problems, the largest competitor of our crew. But we must not forget the Kamaz. We have seen that they can be very fast. It’s hardly be estimated what would be the loss if Aleš had not problems with dampers. My guess is that in such difficult terrain it could be up to 20 minutes. We have to realize how heavy is the racing truck and how important is to keep a cool head. I know from my own experience how difficult it is. We had problems with dampers more often than we wanted. It should be noted that today is the damping and springing completely on another level. In addition, we cooperate with the FRT dampers in their development and testing. But you can see that even the very best technology can fail in such a difficult competition, which the Dakar Rally undoubtedly is.“
Yesterday stage was for the crews demanding in the fact that after 429 km long speed trial followed almost the 300 km crossing section. The mechanics started to work on the Princess after the sunset. Because of the tiredness not so much different from this years situation happened last year the fatal mistake. We wanted to know Karels opinion on this, how he thinks the mechanics can prevent these situations and if they as well as drivers are able to resist combination of those situations and all other difficult tasks: “The mistake from last year is already behind us. Guys took the lesson from that, however they can not think about it all the time. Aleš needs definitely some rest. Simply it is impossible to drive it whole all by himself. We were also switching. I guess, he is ready to let Radim drives the Princess, because he is also experienced and conscientious. But is quite hard to judge it from the long distance. The Dakar is not hard only for drivers, but also for their support teams. Service those giant cars is extremely difficult. Plus they got the princess in the late night hours. In my opinion the mechanics did not sleep a lot this night. My son Leoš is in the support team, so I am sure the guys know why they are there and the will do their best for the leading Dakar team. Simply it is their mission.”
Nonetheless our crews can not expect any kind of the rest after todays fifth stage, because it is followed by the sixth stage with 438 km long speed trial plus 291 km long crossing section. Especially the beginning and the finish of the stage command respect. Firstly there is hard rising and then falling terrain, basically as on the roller-coaster. Then there is speeding and at the end of the stage there is huge rising to almost 2,5 km above sea level.
Karel was right once again, the service team got to the bed at dawn, however the clean Princess in new slippers and with new damping is well prepared to the new adventures together with our crew 503.
Lets root for them!
Comment on 3 stage
Having a conversation with Karel Loprais is always such interesting and instructive. But speaking with him about Dakar right trough Dakar Rally is unique. But there is one risk- you might forget about the time passed and that exactly happened during todays interview. This is the reason why we are bringing you only the part of it and lets start with the rating of yesterdays third stage: “We know we are still at the beginning of the rally. It is important to stay focused during the whole stage. Pay attention to all of the pitfalls waiting in this difficult landscape. We have seen how many troubles, but also happiness brought the last part of the stage to our crew. I mean happiness, because if Aleš reacted badly during being stuck, the time difference would be way worse than it is. I got pulled from those situations. It was obvious, that the dune was blowed into.”
We were searching if it possible to keep away from those dangerous parts, it those parts are marked in the navigation, but Karel Loprais explains it to us: “No, no. Those situations depends only on the drivers. The whole Dakar is depending on the eyes. The drivers does not have any schedule. They do not train anything. And this is the beauty of the Dakar Rally. It is also important where the car stands, because it might also affect your judgement. However, it was beautiful, how Aleš handled this situation, because it looked way worse.” So congratulations.
“Tomorrow stars the real Dakar!” We were warned beforehand, when we started to talk about the fourth stage. “They have to ride almost 450 km tomorrow. There is the correlation between the length and its difficulty. But there will be also an important hight temperature changing the results. Surprisingly, we did not have those high temperatures in Africa. It is way more difficult to stay concentrated in those heats. Plus the heat also affects the technic.” Adds Karel with the fact, that tomorrows stage will be very important and Aleš need a little bit of luck.
What mostly surprised or pleased in this years rally the person heavily connected with the Dakar? He smiles and answers: “Obviously I am mostly pleased by the fact, how good Aleš drives and that the technics work well. Because this is the basic of every success. I am not worried about the mood in the cockpit, it is clear the guys are going well with each other. But I did not get those those thing around, for example the coefficient during the prologue, it did not help anybody, except the De Rooy. Until now it looks like the fight between our Tatra, Kamaz and Iveco. But in my opinion many thing can change until the half of the competition. De Rooy drives fantastic so far, however we have to wish to have luck and beat him.”
So Aleš and De Rooy, congratulations to both of you and lets go to the next stage!
Comment on 2 stage
We were all surprised by this years news after the finish of the prologue stage, the coefficient 3, which multiplied all the differences between the winning time and all the rest. It was all probably because of the short length of the first stage. Karel was thinking for a while: “Personally I do not think this stage was about something more than make the start list of the second stage. I mean, the 13 kilometers will not make any difference in the finish even though you multiply them by 3. Honestly I have no idea who came with this coefficient and I doubt the Aleš will have more informations about it. So I am not sure what happened and why the organizers came with this.”
After a short discussion we got to the review of the fantastic second place in the second Dakar stage. We were also interested in knowing, if it may means something promising to the whole result. As Karel says: “The progress until now is simply amazing. But it is nothing new for me, because I know how fast can Aleš be. However, it is important to still about the fact, that we have only 2 stages behind. Dakar is extremely difficult race and anything can happen. Remember the last year. Aleš even won a stage and then one small mistake happens and everything is lost.”
Our next topic was a security system HANs, on which Aleš complained a little bit yesterday. We know this system has both many supporters and also many enemies, especially from the rally world. “I can not talk about it personally, because in my era we did not have to wear even a coveralls. I am sure the safeness of the driver is very important, but I do not know if it is good choice in the trucks. I can imagine how important it is in formulas or in the circuit races. HANs mostly cover your spine right in the head impact, but realize how does it work in the truck. The head is moving in all directions. Then, in my opinion, is the HANs unnecessary. As Aleš said, there are just another blows to the helmet and it also the mobility of the head reduces significantly. “
Pleasant conversation then gets to the stage number three and how will it be similar to the previous one. “I think that the stage could be very similar and diverse. Large dunes alternate with hard terrains. And remember how much trouble it prepared to Stacey.”
There are not many people who know Aleš as well as his uncle. So we had to ask how does he handle the pressure that could Aleš as well as any leading racer feel. There are racers that serve better under the pressure. Is his starting position an advantage or not? “He starts as the second truck, that’s good. We know that cars and trucks start together and Aleš will start as one of the first so in front of him there will be clean. It’s of course an ideal position. Moreover I know that Alda can go very well under the pressure while he’s already an experienced rider so he will not want to show off or to rush forward at any cost.”
Comment on 1 stage
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