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How do you gee up a massive crowd to get behind one of the biggest and hardest endurance races in the world? Well, if today was anything to go by, get American driver Robby Gordon to jump his bright orange one-off truck through the ceremonial start podium.

Having wondered around the streets late at night, it’s clear to see Argentinians love their cars. The streets of Buenos Aires are a cocktail of motors, with more than a hint of Arc de Triomphe madness to the traffic, but with even more commitment and a noticeable nonchalance about lane discipline. But this afternoon, when the streets were closed down, clogged up with Dakar metal and lined solidly with screaming fans, the real beauty of the event was unleashed.

For the opening ceremony, all 414 vehicles made their way across town from Parc Ferme to the steps of “La Casa Rosada,” the presidential palace for the generic ‘going-over-the-podium-bit’ that anyone who’s been to a rally is accustomed to.

Every single quad, bike, car, buggy and truck is summoned on stage, driver dragged out of their car and forced to say a few words to the fans before buckling back up and being shoved off to a mass of cheers from the extremely passionate fans.

The commitment the crowd go to by scaling whatever the bloody hell they can to elevate their eye level and get their selfie stick a clearer view is admirable… and slightly dangerous. Seriously, the excitement was enough for one child to force his head through a gap in the barricade. Something he quickly regretted, when he realised it was very much stuck.

But the noise reverberating off the walls and down the long, bowling-alley-straight streets, increasingly getting louder throughout the nine-hour event, is like nothing I’ve never witnessed.

The truckers – being truckers – were incredibly overenthusiastic with their horns as their land tankers clogged up the main city arteries, while their massive turbos sucked in 50 per cent of the earth’s atmosphere each time the big boys had to get rolling.

We’re heading to the start line first thing before flying out west to catch up with the Peugeot pack as they roll back into civilization after Stage Two.

And, given what we can only assume to be the legendary Argentinian Pelagornis decided to plop its lunch all over my head and back earlier – we may even be in for a bit of luck. Here’s hoping!

Words and pictures: Rowan Horncastle

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