From rider to driver
Biker paralysed in accident launches his car rally career12 February 2008
BARCELONA - It's been almost a year since a competition accident left former Spanish motorcycle enduro champion Isidre Esteve in a wheelchair. First he spent 11 months in a Barcelona intensive care unit, then he underwent surgery to have a special electronic device inserted into his lower back to try to encourage nerve regeneration on his spinal injury. The injury, sustained in the Spanish all-terrain championships in Almanzora last March, left him paralysed from the waist down.
Now the 35-year-old - who came fourth in the Dakar Rally in 2001 and 2005 - is preparing for a return to all-terrain competition, but this time behind the wheel.
His first race will be in the Spanish All-terrain Rally in April. "I'm delighted," says Esteve, who has signed a three-year deal with Korea's SsangYong. "I really want to go far. I got to the top as a motorcyclist, and now I want to do so as a driver. But the first thing I have to do is learn how to go faster," he says.
He has chosen Eric Augé, who was Esteve's mechanic during his Dakar years, as his co-driver. "It was absolutely essential for Eric to be my co-pilot: the human factor is decisive," he says, adding: "He knows so much about mechanics, and you have to bear in mind that when problems arise, I can't get out of the car, and so he will have to sort things out."
Esteve himself admits that his own knowledge of car mechanics is limited. "I don't know anything," he admits. "But I'm not that worried, I'm starting a course in Barcelona."
Esteve says it is "almost impossible" for the Dakar Rally to return to Africa, following the last-minute cancellation of the 2008 event due to terrorist threats.
"After the cancellation of the 2008 Lisbon-Dakar Rally and more importantly the reason, terrorist threats, it's almost impossible to imagine another Dakar in Africa," Esteve told Solo Moto magazine recently.
Esteve says there are now only two real options in terms of alternative locations. "The first would be in South America and the second Paris-Moscow-Beijing," he says.
"The South American option is possibly the most attractive. It's summer in Chile and Argentina now so the race could continue to be held at the same time of year, when there are few other motorsport events. The doors would also be opened to new sponsors and to new interest from the manufacturers," he added.
Esteve says he hopes a replacement of the same calibre can be found, and intends to enter whichever race succeeds the Dakar.
[Copyright EL PAÍS / ORIOL PUIGDEMONT 2008]
Subject: Spanish news