The Gran Premio de Baquets – an Argentine experience….
This one is for those of you who have seen and done it all – it is an exhausting rally that’s reminiscent of the very first crazy cross-continent races held between 4 or 5 countries back in the mid ’30s and ’40s when a devil-may-care attitude (and a Suixtil sponsorship) was the only thing carrying you forward. Well, that and the support from supporters scattered along deserted roads & remote villages, and the adrenalin and fear. Things are somewhat easier these days – thanks to an organization (the Fundacion Roadbook) that’s perfected the formula across the past 10+ years. That being said, you’re still guaranteed to end every day with your face caked in dust (but it’s good for you) and most nights sleeping by your car (but it creates ties). On the other hand (end?) you’ll come out with your very own definition of unforgettable, new friends for life and, likely, a new outlook on the world (remember, the shoey is strictly optional..) – what else could you wish for?
Anyways, our friend Willy (he, the very Dandy Driver) was taking part (again – thereby answering the perennial question about “too much of a good thing”) and had prepared a few cars for friends and aficionados. He brought back some more words of wisdom, that we’ll share underneath, along with some of the amazing photos that he and our friend Patrick Debusseré – from Belgium, no less (and who distinguished himself during the 2019 edition of the Peking-Paris rally – the pinnacle of the genre) and Lorenzo Bas from the Netherlands, his co-driver on that fabulous ‘31 Buick with a straight-8 also brought back. We thank them both for sharing such great material, though we now fear the ongoing litany of requests we will now have to address – at life speed! Additional photo credits go straight to Fabian Gallucci
And now the explanations from Willy, before a few more photos…
“Participating in the Gran Premio de Baquets is a unique experience. This year I did it as part of a team, for we entered five baquets of the Dandy Driver motor racing team, in addition to the crew of mechanics.
There are a few places in the world as wild, uninhabited, arresting and beautiful, where one can drive for whole days along dirt roads, as the route covering the almost 2,000km between the Atlantic Ocean and the Andes mountain range.
The word “baquet” comes from the French word for bathtub. In Argentina, at the beginning of the 20th Century, it was very fashionable among aristocratic society to use French words to name various things. One of them was the word Baquet to refer to the aspect that the first 1910 racers presented. They were stripped of all accessories and irrelevant parts of the body, which made them resemble bathtubs. Cars gradually evolved in their design, but they continued to be called “baquets” even when they were more similar to a Grand Prix car.
Sixty- two cars participated in this edition, mostly American cars: Chrysler, Hudson, Lincoln, Dodge, De Soto, Pontiac, Buick, Ford, Chevrolet and Plymouth, to name a few. An electric baquet (an e- baquet) stood out which managed to complete the almost 2,000 km along its petrol- run partners.
This great edition of the Grand Prix set off in the city of Puerto Madryn, famous for being a sanctuary for whales. On that first stage, we left the blue ocean behind and started to cross the Patagonia at the Somuncurá plateau, the most wild, desolate place in Argentina. We gradually penetrated its arid steppe. We had lunch at a rustic ranch and we slept in Gastre, a small village in the middle of nowhere.
On the second day we went from Gastre to Esquel. During the journey we were able to appreciate the changing geography, diverse topography and different views that Patagonia has to offer.
A very nice visit was the one we paid to Trevelin, where we lined the baquets against fields of tulips, and a small plane passed over us, low-flying and dropping an amazing shower of petals on cars and crews.
On the third stage, we crossed Los Alerces National Park, passing along Futalaufquen, Verde and Rivadavia lakes, among others, and stopped for lunch at a spectacular cabin in front of Lake Epuyen. Then we continued on the road towards El Bolsón.
As days go by, the exertions of cars and drivers begin to be felt. Cars start to break down, but the main trait of this event is comradery and support among all participants, who strive for every car to reach the end.
The fourth stage, one of the longest stretches, started as a convoy visiting the Lago Escondido ranch, one of the most beautiful places in the world. We then continued towards Bariloche and stopped for lunch by the limpid waters of the Limay river. Once we finished the array of good food with which we keep being spoilt, we headed for one of the toughest roads in the race, but also one of the most beautiful to drive along: the Córdoba pass. A road very hard to describe due to its imposing natural beauty which cannot be appreciated through photographs: one has to experience it first- hand.
The last stage was a drive along dirt roads leading to Chapelco mount, where we had enough time to play with the cars in the snow, and then continued to Hua- Hum and to the end of our trans- Patagonian voyage from the Atlantic to the Andes mountain range.
The five cars in our team managed to get to the line with the checkered flag, the champagne and the typical Argentine asado.
A program combining both the passion for cars and the majestic views of the Argentine Patagonia – what else could you want?”
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