Santolino: “The Dakar has become four-hour motocross rounds”


The motorcycle racer Lorenzo Santolino assured this Wednesday that his “realistic” goal in the Dakar 2024 is to finish within the 'top 5', although it will not be “at all easy” given the preparation and evolution of the rest of the participants, in a test that awaits that “really” is “hard”, although converted into “four-hour motocross rounds”.

“The 'top 5' is a realistic goal, it can happen, but it is not easy at all, we have to be clear. The level is rising every year, there are more and more people, more brands that are 100% preparing all year round for the Dakar, on a professional level, and investing a lot of time and effort,” commented the Spanish driver in an interview with Europa Press.

The seven-time Spanish champion and junior world Enduro champion will face, with the support of the Pont Grup insurance company, his sixth Dakar starting on January 5, with the desire to confirm himself among the motorcycle elite in the demanding test. . “Many things have to align for it to happen. We have been close to it, I finished sixth, the year I finished eleventh I was in the 'top 5' until stage 9. It can be done, I have prepared for it and hopefully this year will be the one that get it,” he said.

“The Dakar is the race and the objective of the year. There are many steps during the year, but with the objective of arriving well prepared for the Dakar. This year I decided not to take part in all the events of the World Rally Raid, to take advantage of a little the budget, trying to evolve the bike. And the thermometer was the Morocco Rally, with many top riders and it helps you a little to see where you are and finish fine-tuning,” said Santolino.

The Spaniard finished ninth in the Dakar 2023, the best national driver in the last edition, 1 hour and 17 minutes from the lead. A result that he hopes to improve in this edition, after a Morocco Rally in which he was “fighting with the leading positions in the 'top 5' for almost the entire rally.”

His background in five previous events – with two abandonments in his first two participations in the Dakar – will also be “important” to go with more confidence and security. “You have to be aware that you have to prepare for any situation. The psychological issue is prepared as another part of the preparation for the Dakar,” he confirmed.

“Mentally, what you do is put yourself in these types of circumstances, how to face them, because you are going to have to face them. There are moments of crisis, of navigation losses, of mechanical breakdowns, of falls, and you overcome this and continue in a good position. pace and being able to get to the end of the day and continue is sometimes hard,” he added about the relevance of going to Arabia while taking care of one's mental health.

Especially for a Dakar 2024 that, for Santolino, will be “very hard.” “This year I don't have the feeling that it's going to be hard, they haven't wanted to sell us that it's going to be very hard, because last year it already was, and this year they haven't put much emphasis on this, that's why it's to be,” he tried to guess.

“There are many kilometres, many more per day than other years, a new stage of the 48 hours and in an area of ​​very demanding terrain like the Empty Quarter. I think it will be complete and all this with the seasoning of the weather, if in addition there is rain and cold, it is going to be one of the hardest,” he analyzed regarding the route, with the novelty of the marathon stage that will test the pilots' limits.

For Santolino, in the Dakar speed also has much more prominence, although you have to be resistant. “Now it is resistance with speed. They are four-hour motocross rounds. The distances between riders are minimal, they navigate better and better, everyone trains and is strong, all brands evolve. All margins are reduced. Now with the slightest mistake you lose 20 minutes, and from being in the 'top 3' you go to the 'top 20' in one day,” he explained.

Although he wanted to highlight the essence that makes the Dakar “very special”, and how it manages to bring together the best drivers on the planet with true fans who are going to live the adventure. “Within a Dakar there are many Dakars. There is the Dakar of the one who is going to win it, the one of the one who is going to finish it… There are many spirits within a Dakar, that is what also makes it very special. They bring the winner together with the one who finishes last, who is very passionate and goes with the right means,” he applauded.

Finally, Santolino related what a day at the Dakar is like, which has to be “very structured” given the “limited” time set by the organization. “You have to take advantage of it to rest as much as possible. I usually get up an hour and a quarter before departure, to have breakfast, get dressed, with warm clothes, because it is very important on the morning connections to be very warm since it is between 0 and 5 degrees and it is many kilometers at night,” he indicated.

“Once you arrive at the special stage, you have half an hour to take off your warm clothes and get ready, you have 20 minutes to place the roadbook on the motorcycle, before the start of a stage of about 4 hours on average. As soon as you arrive “You have to be clear about what you have to do. I undress, eat quickly, take the opportunity to lie down, take a shower and start preparing for the next day, while I see if anything needs to be changed on the bike,” he concluded.