Josef Macháček won his category this year! And that’s it!
He deserves the Bedouin trophy and nothing else matters… it might sound a bit funny, but nobody, who knows at least a bit about the most famous rally raid competition in the world, would say a thing against these words. Especially, when they come from, I dare to say, the king of Dakar navigators, a multiple Dakar winner Josef Kalina.
He is another famous Josef, apart from Macháček, who has plenty of Dakar experience under his belt. He has raced there 26 times and he is the only Czech participant to try it in 4 different decades. Who could better judge this year’s route? “Last year, it was the first time in Saudi Arabia. It was a flat route with long and fast straights. This year, the Dakar has returned to its classic style with dunes, but it didn’t really slow down, which was fascinating. On the contrary, the first 10 vehicles and 20 bikes ran the whole Dakar flat out, which is unimaginable,” said the highly experienced veteran.
There is only one winner
Josef Kalina has the biggest respect for the light prototypes category winner Josef Macháček. “I remember, it was tens of years ago, this guy appeared at Dakar, saying that he’s driving a quad bike, he’s Czech and whether we could help him as he was a rookie. Back then, the quad bikes were part of the bike category, especially because of the refuelling. And the bikers didn’t like them at all, because they were creating just as much dust as cars. But already back then, he was an experienced biker, who had injured his leg and because he couldn’t fully tread on it, he switched to the quad bikes. Today, Josef is a hardened man, a super fighter, and an excellent mechanic, without all the craziness he had. Look, this year, he has managed to beat a two-time DTM winner and a rallycross world champion Matthias Ekström.” Josef thinks that his namesake fully deserves the Bedouin trophy for the winner. And that the comparison with Karel Loprais is well-deserved. “Josef is a racer, who has become a Dakar Rally legend, just like Karel. Everything that he’s achieved so far, in his age, and he’s still ambitious. That says it all about his indestructibility. I appreciate everyone who has finished the race, but there’s only one winner. And there’s nothing to discuss.”
Ignorance is no excuse
According to the multiple Dakar winner, all the debates about the level of categories are pointless. They just show a lack of knowledge. “At the beginning, buggies ran with quad bikes and trucks ran with cars. Even though it was clear that we cannot compete with cars. That changed with Jan de Rooy, who had decided to take the overall win with the truck. But in the end, it didn’t work out,” remembers Josef Kalina the mighty Daf Turbotwin II truck with two engines, two transmissions and a 1,000 horsepower. In 1987, the flying Dutch had no competition amongst the trucks. In the next year, he wanted to do even better while competing with rally world champions Vatanen and Kankkunen. But it resulted in a crash of the other vehicle, in which a navigator Kiis Van Loevezijn lost his life and two other team members had heavy injuries. “Karel Loprais won that year, but for the next year, they didn’t allow trucks back. It wasn’t until 1990 when the organisers finally homologated trucks. But it’s the same as with Josef Macháček this year. Karel won in 1988 and nobody will ever change that.”
Casale had connection with the vehicle
As a legendary navigator, Josef Kalina wants to pass his experience to the other drivers. “These days, navigation devices are full of electronics, and the guys almost forgot how to do it naturally. Almost nobody knows what azimuth is,” he laughs.
As a top example of navigation, Josef Kalina points out to a new addition to the Tatra Buggyra Racing team Ignacio Casale. The Chilean predator started as a navigator in his father’s crew. And for this year’s Dakar, he has hired a Dakar SSV category winner Alvaro Leon to be his navigator. “It’s great when the driver isn’t just listening to his navigator, without thinking about it, but he has his own views and he thinks about it, which is most definitely the case of Ignacio,” says Josef Kalina, who was surprised by the lack of coverage by some of the Czech media. “The argumentation that it’s not a Czech driver, is weird. Which of our teams can say that they’ve hired a three-time Dakar winner?” asks Josef, while comparing Ignacio Casale to Karel Loprais, with whom he has won three Dakar races. “This Chilean guy has three trophies as the quad bike category winner, yet he won only a single stage. That shows that he can use his head. You can do pretty much anything with the car when you hit troubles, but trucks are awful. When a 10-tonne machine decides to do something, it’s very hard to get it back under control. Ignacio didn’t have the latest technology; he was the only driver in the TOP 10 with a manual gearbox. But just like Karel Loprais, he managed to be fast, and save the vehicle at the same time. He had his connection with the vehicle…“
The Dakar legend has also praised Macík and Prokop. “Martin Macík started as a navigator in his father’s crew, who taught him. He showed excellent performance, he’s a real professional, in a perfect physical shape, who can make the right decisions very quickly,” he says about this year’s winner of 3 stages. “Hats off. I completely agree with his strategy to push hard to the end, thinking that any of the Russians in a Kamaz could retire for any reason. He still has a lot ahead of him at Dakar.” “The 9th place of Martin Prokop in the cars is an excellent result, especially considering his bad luck. Once again, he has shown that he can drive on the top. It’s just a shame that he got into the navigation difficulties at the beginning. The organisers have proved that they can find a spot that seems to be easy to navigate through, but in reality, it’s very complicated.”