Frequently asked questions

Haeufig gestellte FragenHow did you come across motorsport?

I heard of it as motorcycling is a pastime of mine. In 1987, I privately followed the Paris Dakar Rally in my holidays. Then I wanted to contest the Paris Dakar Rally as a competitor. From my point of view, Cross Country rallying is a fascinating mix of adventure, technical issues and racing.

What do you recommend youngsters who want to start a career in motorsport?

To enter the sport is often very hard at the beginning due to the financial requirements. There are different ways of testing one’s skills:

National associations such as the ADAC in Germany or other clubs usually offer training courses in karting or in rallying and racing, additionally there are normally courses for motocycles available. This is a good way of finding out about one’s talent.

In any case, you’ve got to pursue your ambitions with a strong will and commitment if you aim at a professional career. Initially, I used to invest all my money into motorsport. Particularly at the beginning, it is quite hard to attract sponsors.

Is it more difficult for women to succeed in motorsport?

Generally speaking, it is equally difficult for both genders. As a woman, you enjoy a higher degree of perception at the beginning. But this won’t last long if you fail to deliver.

One of the disadvantages is that women will usually find it more difficult in teams to get a winning package. It is a common practice that state-of-the-art cars and parts will be assigned to male competitors as there still prevails the opinion that men tend to be somewhat quicker.

How do you keep physically fit in Cross Country rallying?

In doing power training and emphasizing the aspect of stamina in my fitness program. Power training helps keeping fit the upper part of the body, the back and the neck. My stamina is being trained by jogging and cycling. Normally, I do sports three times a week, whereas prior to big events, I practice on a daily basis.

Do you prefer a special kind of nutrition?

I pay attention to healthy food. This means loads of salad, fruit and vegetables. During an event, I prefer food with carbo-hydrates, that means potatoes and pasta. A decent level of minerals is being upheld by isotonic drinks. Additionally, we receive vitamin tablets from our physio therapist.

How is the Paris Dakar Rally being run?

Normally, the event kicks off in France. Via Spain, we enter Africa. This event is traditionally the pinnacle in the Cross Country calendar and lasts 18 days. Each year, the organisers develop a new route. The overall distance adds up to around 10,000 kilometres. Every day, we drive another timed section. The conditions are new every day, for instance mountains and narrow, rock-strewn roads in Morocco, dunes and sand in Mali, Mauritania or Libya. Every evening, the co-driver receives a new road book including route details for the forthcoming stage. It includes details about the itinerary as well as warnings of possible obstacles like wash-outs or holes, the locations of the control points (CPs) or information about GPS and compass.

The whole Dakar community is huge. The entry list usually comprises of 200 motocycles, 120 cars and some 100 lorries. Additionally, there are vehicles for doctors, catering, organisation and press. We are also accompanied by helicopters and aircrafts. Every evening, the organisers erect a bivouac in which our tents are being pitched. We receive a warm meal from a buffet. While the co-drivers prepare the route for the next day, drivers look after the press and join the mechanics to discuss technical issues.

The starting order is being determined by the result of the previous day. The bike riders are opening the road, to be followed by cars and lorries. The first ten cars are separated by two-minute intervals. The remaining vehicles are being sent off in one-minute intervals, depending on the respective regulations of the event. The overall time of each competitor is calculated by adding up his times of each stage.

How long do careers in Cross Country rallying usually last?

Our sport is not as short-lived as Formula 1. Cross Country rallying can be practiced much longer as it takes into account the aspect of experience to a much higher degree than other kinds of sport do. A reasonable judgement of a certain terrain, for example, or other specific situations are often up to experience. There are successful drivers who are 50 years and older and still belong to the top of our sport

How do you feel as a woman in a sport dominated by male competitors?

Women are just normal competitors, such as men are. I believe that there is no difference in skills. Women do need to have the will to win as do men to be really successful.

Are women better drivers?

I don’t like general judgements on drivers. Usually, men do more miles so they’ve got more experience. From my point of view, women are safer drivers. Men tend to accept bigger risks and they also tend to overrate themselves.

Which targets do you have?

I want to continue to be as successful as possible in motorsport. It would be great to win the Dakar Rally in a diesel-powered car. Additionally, I’ve also got an entirely different dream – I once want to fly into the cosmos.

What has been your biggest success in motorsport?

Winning the 2001 Paris Dakar Rally.

What has been your funniest incident in motorsport?

There once used to be a leg of the Dakar Rally from Nouakchott in Mauritania on the beach to Dakar. Suddenly, we spotted a boat in the sea featuring the same livery and stickers of our car. We have been quite surprised. When we got closer, we realized that it was not a boat, though. Rather, our team mate left the road on a sandy hill and ended up in the sea. We caught him like a fish, our fishing tackle being a towrope…

Are there less funny memories, too?

In my first Paris Dakar Rally, I managed to reach the finish of a leg which saw the retirement of some 80 bikers. When I was refuelling afterwards, the organisers filled in Diesel by accident. Owing to the time required to fix it, I couldn’t tackle the subsequent stage in time. Thus the race was over for me.

Another incident occurred in the 1993 edition of the Dakar Rally. On a very difficult stage through the dunes, I was fifth in the interim classification on my Yamaha. Every competitor in the bike class drove into the darkness that day, and so did I. Then I got stuck in a dune. A lorry came along, didn’t spot my bike and just smashed it. The bike was completely destroyed, my race was over.

Would you like to sample a Formula 1 car?

Yes, it would certainly be a great experience. I always like to try out new things. I once got a lift in that kind of car already. Darren Turner gave me a ride back in 2001 in a McLaren twin-seater at Hockenheim. A fantastic experience!