Dakar Rally 1990s | A piece of Pakelo's Story

Published: 01 August 2021

That time that Pakelo supported Perlini Dumpers

Authentic Rally Adventurers

This is a story that the older employees in Pakelo know by heart. It is 1988 when a neighbor-company called Perlini Dumpers knocks our door with a challenging project: taking part to Paris Dakar Rally with their heavy duty vehicles. Perlini's headquarter was 10km far from Pakelo's and African rallies where for both companies as far as Mars.

Thierry Sabine, a French professional driver, founded Paris Dakar after getting lost in the Libyan desert during Abidjan-Nizza Rally Raid. Out of this extreme experience he conceived the route of what became in everybody's imagery "The Rally of the Rallies". From 1970 to 1992 there was no GPS system. Only rudimental ones started to join in the early 1990s, but the most common navigation tools were still old good compass and maps sketching Touareg's roads (or trying to). Starting from the 1980s the rally became a media success and its fame exploded.

Perlini Dumpers, made for victories

The first Dakar for Perlini Dumpers is in 1988 with a crew made of French driver Thierry de Saulieu, French navigator Jacques Houssat and Italian Mechanic and Co-Driver Danilo Bottaro. The Dumper is a Perlini 105F called "Red Tiger" weighting 12,8 tons and darting full speed at 93 mhp, even if some sources say 114 mhp. But let's stick to the official info. During the first attempt Perlini Dumper scores a victory for truck category and P4 in the overall standing. Not bad for a rookie. However, the real Golden Era of Perlini Dumpers is between 1990 and 1993 when the son of Perlini's founder, Francesco, joins the team as driver and the team subscribes to victory Hall of Fame. 

Interview with Danilo Bottaro, the ace in the hole of Perlini Dumpers

In the 1980s Danilo Bottaro is a talented mechanic working for Perlini company for the foreign customer assistance. Born in Verona in 1953 he is the ace in the hole of Perlini crew at Paris Dakar Rally. He works for the company from 1972 to 1997 and when his chief asks him to join the racing team as mechanic and co-driver he accepts like he would have accepted any other regular assistance work abroad. If you ask him today how does it feel to take part to that legendary adventure in the desert he is pretty unconcerned and humble about it. Like someone who is not aware that he was part of something special. Like we said till 1992 GPS systems are rare and rudimental. Danilo recalls: "Navigation was the hardest part. The very first time we were on a desert we acknowledged that we lost the fire extinguisher on the run. I saw it from the rear window splashing in the sand. We didn't stop and just let it go. After more than one hour we found that very same fire extinguisher along the way. We were moving in circles!" At the time the road book is king. Reference points: scarse. Someone cheats using the strategy to follow other's trails, but it is not always the right choice. General rule: No matter how long it takes you to finish the stage, you're still in if you can reach the starting check point at 6:30am the morning after. Danilo remembers an episode in Algeria when the crew finishes a stage at 3am. It is one of the first stages, one of those made in hell to slim down the list of the contestants. Put 1500 enrolled contestants in 3 or 4 1000km-desert stages in a row and you get a first hand idea of what one mean by natural selection. That night at the bivouac the crew is deathly tired. They are welcomed by a stranger that ironically says: "You took your time with this stage, guys!", they don't recognize him at first, but it is Mr. Roberto Perlini himself, the company's owner, that came by helicopter to cheer the team up. Danilo remembers it as a funny moment but try to imagine how it could be to face a race of 21 hours (the last of which driving) and then making the dumper maintenance to start again after 3 hours. Ready to go when clock strikes 6:30am.

Asking Danilo his top satisfaction he immediately anwers that he is very proud that his dumper always arrived to destination. The outcome is uncertain till the very end. Imagine it's 1991. It's second to last stage and you break a suspension. Since Perlini's Dumper had independent inflation systems Danilo goes almost flat with one suspension and looks for a balance to finish the stage. With this impediment they gift the pole to Tatra truck and get a 1,5-hour delay. Well, it hurts. The day after is the final stage. FYI it's a symbolic stage on Dakar beach, a few miles long, a trifle in the masterplan of the whole race. "A lot of people underestimated that tricky stage. But I knew better. You can't imagine how many stopped a few miles before the end. It happened also to Tatra that year. It stopped but the team had plenty of time to reach the finishing line and win the race anyway. But it never did! They broke the engine because of a broken piston. So we won even in 1991." - remembers Danilo smiling. He adds: "Winning is difficult, but winning again is harder." Beyond preparation you also need luck. On the memory lane it is easy to recall both the competitive and the solidarity side among crews. Taking part to Dakar in the 1990s costs almost half a million euros, and Perlini accepts to rent a vehicle to famous offshore champ Giorgio Villa. He is 100% competitive and when Danilo's crew needs help he simply doesn't stop, but fortunately others do. That year Villa wins the rally but it's a bittersweet victory for Perlini Dumpers. This is just a single episode. Thinking about the role of dumpers in Paris Dakar Rally Danilo explains that were very helpful for everybody. They opened up dunes for others to come. How could anyone master a 1312 feet dune if not on dumper? Extra-low inflation pressure and full throttle. Danilo is easygoing and among others he bonds also with Italian adventurer Ambrogio Fogar during the Paris Moscow Beijing rally of 1992. Fogar calls him "The Spy" because Danilo gives him first hand information about the route. It is the year of Fogar's accident where he looses the use of legs. In a rally everyone acknowledges risks but no one talks about them. Death is the ultimate taboo. Even when it happens, you don't have time to stop. Is it dangerous? Of Course, but accidents are not the only threat in the 1990s. In 1991 Danilo is racing with the crew while the driver of an assistance vehicle of Citroen Factory called Charles Cabbanes gets shot by a maniple of armed rebels. "Dakar Rally required 15 days in a row cut off the rest of the world. You had no time to rest, to think and to mourn. Death was an abstract concept, till it happened. It hurt, but the next day the race was still there demanding, stealing your mind." - affirms Danilo. He confronted those risks himself when during the 1988 Pharaons Rally edition he sees some vehicles standing in an awkward position in the distance. The driver slams on the brakes to discover that they are on top of a quarry ravine. They barely made it out alive. 

Birth of Pakelo 80w140 Transmission Oil

Pakelo's Africa sickness probably starts here at the legendary Paris Dakar Rally of the 1990s with Perlini Dumpers. They tested our engine oil - namely Pakelo Kentron Over SAE 40 - which is long gone out of the catalogue now. Danilo Bottaro, the mechanic we interviewed revealed us that they didn't change engine oil every night like other big Factory Teams did. They were smaller and had less spare parts to use with them. He used to change engine oil halfway to Dakar, just in case. High temperatures were enemy #1 there, but they never broke an engine. 

However if we have to be accurate. For Pakelo Paris Dakar Rally was the true field test for its transmission oils. A brand new viscosity was tested for the occasion. It was a SAE 80w140, quite an innovative product for the time since only few European oil producers had it. During the rally mechanic parts connected with the transmission (front and rear axle, gear and reduction units) suffered of incandescent temperatures. Imagine the heat produced by a dumper truck running 93 mhp speed with 30-35°C outside. Parts were 120°C hot. With this temperatures an oil could potentially oxidate and loose its lubricating power. Pakelo transmission oil used during those races was conceived to resist from -60°C to +180-200°C. Full protection mode on.

It's undeniable that in time Pakelo benefited of the expertise made during Paris Dakar Rallies to bring product innovation on transmissions forward. To discover our current range of automatic and mechanical transmission oils click here

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