Dakar: back on the great adventure of the Vellave Patrick Sireyjol alongside his daughter, Audrey

January 2021, Patrick Sireyjol was living his 33rd Dakar, not as a driver but, this time, as an opener. The one who had already participated in motorcycle then in car, then decided to make a phone call to his daughter Audrey. “He offered me to take part in the Dakar Classic for the next edition. He presented it to me as a kind of ride”. But very quickly, the 30-year-old Ponote realized that it was nothing short of a walk in the park. “You get up at 4 a.m., you put on your jumpsuit, you have a quick lunch and you cover 800 kilometres. In the evening when returning to the bivouac, you still have to do some mechanics and clean the car before you can shower, eat and go to sleep”.

premium The Vellave Patrick Sireyjol alongside his daughter, Audrey, on the Dakar 2022

“I had simply done 20 kilometers in the woods before the start”

Audrey Sireyjol grew up in a family of motor sports enthusiasts. As children, with David, his older brother, they used to ride motorcycles. He on his motocross and she on her Piwi 50. “Sunday afternoons were Formula 1 and Moto GP at home,” she recalls. Another tradition, “we used to see our father leave for several weeks in January. He was even absent sometimes for Christmas when the Dakar started in December”. This is probably why those around her were delighted – but not surprised – to see her embark on such an adventure. Her mother, Marie-Hélène, with whom she has a very close relationship, was still a little worried when she heard the news. “She said to herself ‘That’s it, he’s taking her on his adventures’, but she was still reassured to see that I was going with my father who is experienced rather than with a friend”, says Audrey.

The Vellaves cross the Saudi desert. Photo DR

La Ponote immediately accepted the proposal of his father Patrick Sireyjol. “Leaving for three weeks in the desert with his dad, I couldn’t miss that. Then, I am 30 years old, he is 60, it was the right time to do it”.

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Daddy’s Surprise

In her imagination, Audrey Sireyjol already saw herself giving directions to her father at the wheel. Patrick Sireyjol had however decided to make an exception, for this 44th edition of the famous rally-raid. “Two or three months after his call, I saw him working on the car. So I asked him how I could learn to read the roadbook”, remembers the Ponote. It was then that she learned that her father was going to change his habits and move into the passenger seat. And if Audrey Sireyjol had already driven two wheels, she had never taken roads by car. So we had to learn on the job. As a symbol, she took the wheel of a Toyota HDJ Land Cruiser 80 from 1991, her year of birth. The preparation was truncated, the idea of ​​an internship in the desert in Morocco had to be abandoned because of the health crisis. “I simply did 20 kilometers in the woods before leaving for Saudi Arabia,” she confides, amused.Father and daughter had a great adventure. Photo DR

Once there, there was no time to procrastinate after the attack which had seriously injured the French pilot Philippe Bourlon, just before the start. Both father and daughter had to get into racing right away. Contrary to the traditional categories, the Dakar Classic is not a test of speed but of regularity. “We are given an average speed to respect, it requires a lot of concentration”. And all the more so for a beginner, who has to deal with a vehicle that she does not know, on totally unfamiliar ground. The presence of her father made it possible “to go there without too much pressure, it is reassuring”, she adds. Overall, the Vellave duo did not experience a major scare. Except for a second week stage where “we almost got on the roof and took a small tree”, explains Audrey Sireyjol. Fatigue was beginning to play tricks on him. “I couldn’t control the car, it annoyed my father because I was putting us in danger, he was trying to jostle me”. More fear than harm in the end.Dakar 2022 Audrey and Patrick Sireyjol

Overall, the Ponote keeps good memories of this adventure. An image remained etched in his mind: “We were in a long straight line, on a sandy track, with a view of the mountains in the distance, and we passed near a herd of camels. It was magical, ”she slips, a bit nostalgic. The last days of racing also allowed him to have fun behind the wheel. She decided to abandon the timer and the goal of regularity, to simply enjoy driving. “The first ended up with around 400 penalty points, that’s sometimes what we took in a day,” she smiles.

At the start of the next Dakar?

The father and daughter reached the finish in Jeddah on January 14, with a 73rd place overall. Since then, Audrey Sireyjol is slowly recovering from her emotions. She returned to the Brasserie du digital, her workplace in Puy-en-Velay, where she has been working in interior design since 2020. Regarding the next edition of the Dakar: “There, right away , I really don’t feel ready to leave, maybe it will have changed in 6 months”. It must be said that another idea runs through the heads of the Sireyjol family. “We talked about it with my father, it would be really nice if he could live this adventure with my big brother David, even if it’s more complicated with his job”.

Lucas Jacquet

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