ROMAIN GRABOWSKI: RETRACING HIS FATHER’S MOTORSPORT FOOTSTEPS…

15.11.2018

If your father lives and breathes motorsport, there’s always a chance his progeny will also get bitten by the same bug. And if your father does the Dakar rally, it must be virtually impossible not to get carried away by the same passion. That’s absolutely true of Motul’s external communication manager Romain Grabowski, who is proudly continuing his father’s passion for rally raid - and of course the mighty Dakar. But what if you want to step back in time and actually relive your father’s adventures?

 

In 1982, Romain’s father, Denis Grabowski, participated in the Dakar in a purpose-built Lada Niva, probably the pinnacle of simple but effective off-road engineering. In 2018, Romain participated in the Rally des Pionniers, a classic rally raid event, in an exact replica of the car his father had used in the 1980s. Needless to say, we had to find out more.

 

ROMAIN GRABOWSKI: RETRACING HIS FATHER’S MOTORSPORT FOOTSTEPS…

Romain, what inspired you to not only start in this event but in particular to go through the painstaking process of rebuilding your father’s car?

My father started the Dakar in his Lada Niva 1.6 essence in 1982. After that, he did two more Dakar’s in a Toyota, but he always kept the Lada. It was always in the garage at home and I spent countless hours sitting in the back seat. It was such an iconic car and I love it to this day. I’ve always been involved in rally raid and Dakar. Before I worked for Motul, I worked with a company organising rally raids, but I’d never actually participated in an event as a driver. Then I had the idea of doing a classic raid in my father’s car. He had already got rid of the Lada. I tried everything to find it, but it seemed as if the car had just disappeared. When I was at Dakar this year, killing time on a liaison bus to the next bivouac, I spotted a Lada Niva on “le bon coin” with exactly the same specifications as my fathers and I immediately bought it. When I took delivery, I immediately started to turn it into my father’s car. Now, if you could put both cars next to one another you would not be able to tell the difference.

 

Romain, what inspired you to not only start in this event but in particular to go through the painstaking process of rebuilding your father’s car?

Tell us about the event? What is the Rally des Pionniers?

It’s a classic rally raid event that started in France a few years ago but has now moved to Morocco for the first time. It’s a mix of classic rally raid cars, a few quad bikes and a truck. The rally lasts one week with a total of around 2000 km of off-road driving, mostly around Agadir.

 

Tell us about the event? What is the Rally des Pionniers?

What was the experience like?

We went for the full experience like my father did and we actually drove down to Morocco (except for the ferry ride of course). We had a few friends along who were driving a Mitsubishi and we attached a trailer to it to carry the Lada. The rally itself was an amazing experience. The roads were fantastic. I’ve been working in rally raid for so long, but this was the first time I got to experience it from the driver’s seat.

 

What was the experience like?

Morocco is famous for its tough terrain and high dunes. What were the roads like?

Actually, there was not as much sand and desert as in the regular Moroccan rally raid. It was mostly rocky terrain, which is also pretty tough, but you don’t have the risk of getting stuck in the sand, which makes it a bit easier.

 

Morocco is famous for its tough terrain and high dunes. What were the roads like?

Did you have any support or was everyone for themselves?

The entire competition was run without assistance on the stages. There was one truck which would provide support at the bivouac but once you were on the stage it was you, the car and the desert. That wasn’t really a problem because the Lada is really reliable, so we actually only had one problem which was a broken steering arm. When we got back to the bivouac a few Moroccan mechanics fixed the car with an improvised part which I believe came from a clutch. It was a piece of plastic which they modified to go on the steering rack. I thought it wouldn’t hold together for very long but actually it did and it’s still on there.

 

Did you have any support or was everyone for themselves?

What was the biggest challenge?

There were two challenges. The first was respecting the car and the terrain. If you go too fast you will break the car. There was another Lada Niva which pushed ahead faster than us, but they didn’t make it to the end. The car had a complete suspension failure due to those Moroccan rocks. The second was the distance and endurance. Driving 250 kilometres off-road per day is pretty tough and in the proper Dakar event they’ll easily do 800 or more. I can’t even begin to imagine how though that would be.

 

What was the biggest challenge?
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