Upon their return from Dubai, where they spent practically the entire month of November training and testing their new car, Nani Roma and his co-driver Dani Oliveras conspired to avoid the virus. “When we get home we have to control ourselves, we said,” recalls Oliveras, 33. Still today he ponders how and when and still does not know when he was infected with coronavirus. “One day I went to buy a supermarket, another day to put gas in the car; and I didn’t even go to see my parents, ”she says. But he got sick. And after more than 20 days without antibodies, he had no choice but to follow the 2021 Dakar Rally from home.
Without him, Rome (10th overall; 16th this Monday, 35 minutes from Al-Attiyah, winner of the stage) is still a bit lost. The objective of fighting to win his second Dakar by car was completely diluted the whole day that, a few hours after taking a flight to Jeddah (Saudi Arabia), he knew that his traveling companion would not accompany him. In his place, to the right of the BRX (Bahrain Raid Xtreme) sits today the Frenchman Alexandre Winocq.
Oliveras, who should have gotten on a plane on December 28, noticed the first symptoms at the beginning of the month. He had a fever for just one day, on the 8th, and after a few days he lost his taste and smell, senses that he has already recovered. Although still testing positive a month later. “It’s tough, this is the race of the year. It was a bit frustrating not being able to go, because of all the work we had done for a whole year. But I have to assimilate it ”. And he adds: “The positive is that my health is fine.”
The ballot is now trying to save her from Rome, who in these first days had a hard time finding in Winocq the good feelings she had in last year’s Dakar with Oliveras. Now, instead of Catalan, listen to the notes in French again, like years ago. He even asks for some of these notes in English, because even if Alex doesn’t speak it perfectly, Nani manages to internalize the information more quickly.
“What costs the most is communication. I mean, for example, that Nani did not know Alex’s tone of voice until now. I already knew mine and had enough confidence to believe in me. A co-driver is the one in charge inside the car, but sometimes decisions have to be made between the two. And if you tell a pilot no, that he is to the right, that decision he must make in tenths of a second is easier if there is almost blind trust, “Oliveras explained to EL PAÍS.
“It has cost me more than I thought. It was a lot to sprint and the automatisms did not come to me, every note that Alex told me I had to think about ”, said Roma after the first day of competition. The result, he believed, had not been perfect. The good news was, however, that the car worked well.
A new car
“We have to be realistic: it is a new car and, because of the covid, until four or five months ago it was inside a computer. But the team is very professional and knows very well what the competition is about ”, explains Oliveras, who admits that the feelings with that BRX were very good in the Dubai tests. “We were all very impressed with the potential of the car.”
While Roma, 48, struggles to decipher his new partner, a task that, in most cases, is based on hours and hours of training locked in the same car, Oliveras remains in constant contact with him, to apply what was studied in the previous days. And make their task somewhat easier. “Nani has a lot of experience and that will help them a lot,” he says. The first results came this Monday, a positive day, in the words of Rome. “Although the result does not reflect it. It’s what the Dakar and the cross country: there is speed, there is navigation and we have not been good enough. In spite of everything, it has been a positive day, although the result does not reflect it ”.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.