Guerlain Chicherit said yesterday that the influence of new co-driver Tina Thoerner could help him to put together a concerted bid for victory on the 2010 Dakar Rally. The 31-year-old Frenchman, who is a four-time free skiing world champion, finished ninth in last year's event but has since won the FIA Cross Country Rally World Cup thanks to victories in the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge and the Transiberico Rally.
The Dakar, which begins today in Buenos Aires and finishes on January 17, will once again be hosted by Argentina and Chile having been moved to South America after the 2008 event was cancelled due to fears of a terrorist attack against competitors. Chicherit said Thoerner's influence since taking over from Mathieu Baumel has been partly responsible for improved form. "I think something has clicked since I teamed with Tina.
"I learned so much with Mathieu, we began our rally raid adventure together, but she has done a better job finding the language to channel my enthusiasm and my desires," he said. "Thanks to her experience and competence, I now better understand when to attack and when to take care of the equipment. I have found the right rhythm." Chicherit will be joined at the BMW team by Nani Roma and Stephane Peterhansel, two drivers with previous victories on the Dakar. Spaniard Roma, 27, won the motorcycle class of the event in 2004 and has competed in the car class since that success.
Peterhansel has an even more impressive record, the 44-year-old Frenchman having six motorcycle victories for Yamaha and three more wins in the car class with Mitsubishi to his name. But Chicherit says having teammates of that calibre can only help his cause. He said: "Their contribution is considerable. Without having had to change teams, I have the feeling that with them we have created something that is a lot more professional."
* PA Sport