When Manolo Plaza, one of the Spanish legends of the Rally Dakar, learned that he was going to be the father of a girl, twisted the gesture. The plans didn’t work out as I had imagined.
“I said to myself, “Oh, my God, I wanted a boy!” I had always loved the adventure and in the family we had all been very motorized. I started riding a motorbike, then I went to the quad bikes, and then to the cars. My first Dakar I did in 1996, when Monica I was only three months old…
24 years later, Manolo’s original project, “the illusion of a lifetime”, becomes a reality with Team Plaza and the dorsal buggy 364: “I always wanted to run the Dakar with my daughters”. For starters, he’ll do it this year with the eldest, Monica (24), co-pilot. Father and daughter, and a lot of Dakar spirit. They are a singular case, and a phenomenon in Cuenca, where the Plaza are as well known as the most illustrious son of this Manchega population of 60,000 inhabitants: José Luis Perales.
“A lot of people stop us, ask us and wish us luck. In the shop, in the hairdresser, or in the gynecologist the other day… says Monica, “a crazy goat” (definition Dakariana) who has been a co-pilot for five years… though the hobby comes from afar. Caste comes to the greyhound, to the satisfaction of the parent.
We go with tent and sack, and so I relive with it the experience of the Dakar Africans”
Mónica and Marta (the youngest daughter, born in 2001, with her father in the middle of a stage in Mali) liked the engine more than all the boys in the family. Since the age of 4 they have gone by motorbike, and at 16 they were already managed in the dunes in Morocco, where they accompanied me on excursions to clients. I have left the engine world more than the account –says Manolo, who returns to the Dakar (it will be his 13th edition) after 13 years of absence. He skipped the 11 of the South American stage for economic reasons and the vericuetos of life… The Dakar only existed on TV and in the hippocampus of the brain, where dreams are made.
Until in July, after Lower Aragon, the light came up.
“As economically I could not, at no time I had considered doing the Dakar together, until the possibility of being able to participate thanks to Momentum Task Force (a commercial sales firm), which sponsored me for trips to Morocco. I planned to run the Dakar with my daughter and they thought it was okay: it caught the eye,” says Manolo, who negotiated a good price with Sodicar, the French company that prepares racing cars, and thanks to the management of Pepe Rivero he got the help of 10 friends to complete the budget, at 15,000 euros per beard. Going to the Dakar costs them 250,000 euros, between car, assistance and registration.
“And we’ll sleep in the same tent…,” she says excitedly.
“Because economically we couldn’t afford to go with motorhome “As most goes, ” I wanted to live with her the experience of the African Dakars that I lived, with tent and sleeping bag–the father reasoned.
With my father I’m not going to fight, he’s an easy person to deal with, he lets himself be guided and transmits peace of mind”
–Good thing I don’t find out when he snores… Even if I pass a tractor over me I do not wake up, says the daughter, who hopes to relive the experiences that Manolo told her as a child, and do it to her right, as a co-pilot. Quite a responsibility.
Although it is not new for the Plaza to share the cabin of a race car. They already participated together – and won – some tests of the Spanish Off-road Rally Championship. And they have in favor a good entente: father and daughter, by character, fit well, without edges.
“We’re not going to fight… My father is a very easy person to deal with, very simple. He’s docile, he lets himself be guided. He listens to me a lot. And it gives me a brutal peace of mind: we go very fast and he goes super quiet. He has the best character for a Dakar, his experience and his way of being make it very easy,” says Monica, in the eyes of the father.
“I was a little scared because you run with your daughter, and although you know what it’s like, opening a career is a lot of demand from her. I like him as a co-pilot: he takes it very seriously, she’s very good because she wants to learn, and that makes me excited. The illusion that conveys to me is because I see that we both enjoy it and she does it very well,” Manolo confesses. “I really want to live with her for 17 days, and more in a tent: it’s the concept of the Dakar before–the veteran driver, who would like to finish the rally “in the top 20. If the stages are hard and the car doesn’t give us problems, we can be there; would be a great achievement,” he says, as the icy afternoon of Cuenca comes down.
In the suitcase
“I’ll take the Leatherman – the multi-purpose knife – and the support of my friends who have made it possible for us to live this adventure,” Manolo says. “And I in the design of my helmet I take with me, in the form of a mosaic, to my city, the villages of Aliaga and El Herrumblar (those of my parents), animals, bikes… And I also take the strength and affection of my sister Marta and my mother, and the illusion of the people who follow us.”