Etienne Smulevici - My Dakar Story



Etienne Smulevici - My Dakar Story


Dakar entrance record holder participating in 36 events

Eurorepar car service SSP team manager


“I became who I am thanks to Thierry Sabine”.


Give us few brief overview of team SSP...

“Team SSP is located in France next to the Magny-Cours racetrack. For the 2018 Dakar team, there are 25 team members. Our mission is to provide assistance as well as media vehicles to several racing teams including PH Sport and Overdrive. In total here we have 4 trucks, 1 T2 category Toyota, 2 media 4x4 and 1 quad bike. SSP is a part of a very select group, only a few have more than 30 years experience and history in cross-country rallies.”


This year you celebrate your 36th year of Dakar. Which one was your favourite event? 

“Well, to be honest that’s impossible to choose only one and have 3 editions in mind I will never forget."

1983 : My very first Dakar…

"For my very first year the Dakar was crossing the Ténéré desert (also called the “desert of desert”) for the first time and I can remember that we endured an extremely strong sand storm. On that day 80 participants in total got completely lost, including me. It was frightening but thanks to Thierry Sabine - the legendary Dakar creator and race director at that time – and his white helicopter, all of us were rescued and could find the right path back to the bivouac. A few days later, on 22nd of January 1979, while crossing the finish line I can also remember my wife crying for joy. After 22 days of racing, so many hours fighting against desert and lack of sleep I made it. Today I’m still proud taking into account the fact that only 30% only of participants from that year finished Dakar!"

1986 : Green light because I know you know!

"A few months before the race in 1986 my co-pilot pulled out so I had to think about a replacement solution. In the end I decided that the best co-pilot i could get was...myself! This became a new challenge as I tried to become the very first car driver at Dakar to participate without a navigator. I immediately phoned Thierry Sabine asking him to ammend the sporting regulations, which he did! Afterwards he said to me "green light because I know you know"! Thanks to him I was able to enter the race alone and after having pushed myself 200% I managed to finish the race."

2017 : It is raining in my helmet…

"After 33 years participating in the car category my next challenge was to enter the truck category in 2016. I didn't manage to finish that year due to technical failures however I tried my luck again in 2017. To avoid the pressures of the event, I requested that neither of my two team mates tell me our ranking during the entire event. Everything was going well until the very last stage, when I gained knowledge of the fact we were second in our category! I did my best to keep calm and race as smoothly as possible for the last 64km but I made several driving mistakes. Luckily this had no impact on our ranking and we crossed the finish line in second position. I was so happy, you can't imagine. After a few moments I turned on the windscreen wipers because I thought it was raining. My team mates started to look at me in a strange way simply because it was not raining at all and I then realised i was crying inside my helmet..."


Which country crossed by the Dakar is your most favorite one?

“The place I will never forget is not a country, it is the Ténéré Desert. No words to describe it but there is no similar place on earth. It is unique and still today I enjoy the same passion for Ténéré as for the sea. I’m convinced that the 3 best human adventures on earth are the mountain, the sea and…the desert.”











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