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“I have won the Dakar, but now I am without a team and at the end of the month the fridge must be filled”

BarcelonaA few days ago Oriol Mena (Canyamars, Maresme, 1987) returned home. These last few hours have been crazy: interviews, calls, visits… But the most important thing has been making up for lost time. “I left for the Dakar when my daughter was crawling. Now I’m back and she’s already walking,” he confesses to ARA. From the Dakar, however, he returned with a smile from ear to ear and the champion’s trophy, which he has already put in the office. The co-driver was crowned in the buggy category accompanied by the youngest driver in the history of the toughest rally in the world to win the trophy, the 18-year-old Polish Eryk Goczal. The milestone is historic, but the reality is bittersweet: he is without a team for the rest of the year.

“I am a person who likes challenges and very competitive. And in a world that is changing little by little and every day it costs more to have it as way of life. Right now I’m free. Eryk wants to finish his university career and does not want to continue competing in the World Cup. We are leaders and the other day I was with him and he told me that now he wants to stop,” he explains. The Polish pilot, who turned 18 last November and has already won his first Dakar, has decided not to compete again until at least September, an unworkable situation for Mena. “When you’re looking for a project, you want it to be for 365 days of the year and with about five or six races. But when it fails and your driver decides he wants to finish the race [universitària], now I’m the one who has to find another driver with whom I fit in, feel comfortable and with whom I can live with this. My wife says to me: “You won the Dakar and you’re not happy!” Yes, I am, but I’m also without equipment and at the end of the month the mortgage comes, the bill for the nursery school and the fridge has to be filled”, he confesses.

These days away from home have become long. The adventure in the Dakar has been immense, but missing moments with his family has been hard. “Every day we made video calls, but we are far away, after all. It’s not the same – explains Mena -. When we were making links between stages by road and I had received a photo of my daughter, I would stare at it for five minutes in a daze . As a father, what can I tell you.”

From two wheels to the buggy

The life of Oriol and Marta, his wife, took a 180 degree turn 14 months ago. Clàudia came into the world and her priorities changed completely. He was one of the established enduro riders in the State and had competed for two years in the Dakar with the motorcycle, but when he saw his little girl’s face he realized that the risk was excessive and unnecessary. “It was difficult for me to accept and give up racing on motorcycles. The main trigger was the birth of my daughter. Racing on motorcycles involves a very big risk: to be at the front you have to run a lot. Until the moment I didn’t have my daughter in my arms, I could see that my wife’s belly was growing and the days were passing by. The moment I held her, I realized the responsibility we have as parents. It blew me away life, not only at a sporting level, but in general. It was the trigger to say this far and put an end to it,” he explains.

Oriol and Eryk celebrating the triumph

Once he quit, it wasn’t his idea to be a co-pilot, but the opportunity presented itself and he accepted the challenge. “I’m a person who likes to go to my place and do everything myself, and when you go inside a vehicle it’s 50% each. It’s not easy to find your half orange, so to speak somehow, with whom to share this type of adventure and more under the pressure of a competition where we all want to win,” he explains. This sacrifice is best faced if you take the trophy with you on the return flight, of course. “For us, being second was already winning. We didn’t expect it: we were celebrating second place when we were told we had won the Dakar,” he explains with a smile.

Oriol and Eryk’s triumph is worthy of a Hollywood movie. According to the general, they managed to arrive first in the last stage, but without cutting enough time to steal the lead from the couple who aimed to lift the trophy. At the finish line, there were tears of emotion: second place in a Dakar debut was a more than good result. Suddenly, Dani Oliveras, another Catalan driver in the race, commented to Oriol that his direct rivals were stopped 10 kilometers from the finish line with a breakdown. Without internet to check the times, they started doing calculations and that’s when they realized they were the new Dakar champions. They couldn’t believe it. “At that time, they prick me and don’t draw blood!”

Oriol and Eryk lifting the trophy

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