"Go easy, I'm going to tell you everything." Alberto Carricondo's voice could be heard perfectly through the helmet intercom despite the noise coming from the UTV Polaris engine. The all-terrain vehicle (hence its initials in English) is small, but commands respect. It has a 900 cm3 impeller with a power of 138 horses and a maximum speed close to 140 km / h.
The enthusiasm for driving this car was stronger than the recommendations of Carricondo, who from the beginning advised me to dose the accelerator and comb the brake pedal with my left foot "so as not to waste so much time."
The El Chavo parador, in the Mendoza town of Villavicencio, was the place chosen one morning in September 2011 to have a unique experience: being a pilot for a day. The invitation came from the Dakarian pilot Orly Terranova, who at that time used one of these machines to train and keep fit.
The test is carried out in a very stuck section on a dry river. Roadmap in hand, Carricondo first gave the warnings of the case. “Hit it down the road. In 30 meters you have a curve to the left. Make it quiet because there is a wall. And be careful because there is a big stone coming out ”, he warned.
There was no time to look at the speedometer, but I had a feeling that we are going fast. The curve came and with a precise movement of the wheel we cut it in the middle ... The UTV passed inches from the tremendous rock. There was another curve with the same characteristics as the previous one: closed and with a huge wall, although this time you have to turn right. Not too many problems arose either.
The vibrations of the steering wheel were already felt in the forearms, more used to being leaning on a desk than to those kinds of demands. An extra annoyance was the helmet, which being not the ideal size moved too much.
“We are going to get to a cut. We have to climb. You give it to the bottom. We got to the top and turn right ”, Alberto told me. Although it was the first time in my life that I had seen Carricondo, I did not hesitate in his words for a second. We reached the cut, I spotted the climb and there we went. The UTV had no trouble climbing the slope. We reached the top and my navigator gave me another recommendation. “Be careful there are steep wells. Take them slowly ”. As soon as he finished saying it, the first one appeared. The UTV shook all over the place, but went over the bump without a hitch. We took a curve to the right and a gravel path appeared that invited me to go deep. “Be careful that now there are curves. Get up a little bit, ”Carricondo ordered me. So I did it.
"Do you remember the circuit?" Asked my partner before starting the second lap. The statement did not convince him much and he returned to warn of each of the most complicated sectors. Already in the first corner, the one to the left with the wall and the stone, the first overconfidence of the day appeared. We cut it again on the inside, but this time we went straight towards the rock. We dodged it fairly, but the movement of the UTV revealed that contact was inevitable. We completed the rest of the section without problems. The trial was timed. It took 8 minutes and 12 seconds, a record that none of the other ten journalists who participated in this experience could download ...
After noon, and after a delicious barbecue, there was another contact with the UTV. But in this case the checkered flag was never seen ... At least with the UTV on its four wheels.
Carricondo left the place to Terranova. And from how the experience ended, it could be said that I did not have a good "feeling" with the new navigator: no more than a kilometer from another section the adventure ended against a small poplar that detached the right front wheel of the UTV ... Unlike From Carricondo, Orly only gave me a couple of pointers. Later he would explain that he did not say anything because there was nothing to indicate. Something that has some logic for a pilot seasoned in this of the off-road competitions, but not for a beginner ...
The point is that we took a series of curves at high speed and in one of them the UTV continued straight, hit the tree and got stuck. When reversing the vehicle moved, but the “hahaha, we took a wheel off” from Terranova brought the test to an end. "The responsibility was 50 and 50," said Mendoza later so that the blame for the incident did not fall exclusively on the inexperienced driver. "Now you know what it feels like when something like this happens," he added. And the truth was that he was right. After living a day with so many emotions, not reaching the end of the race was disappointing (beyond having a great feeling of guilt, the rest of the journalists were left without turning).
Nor was there much time for regrets. Radio in hand, Orly told us that we were fine and asked for help. So that they could locate us, he went to the highest place he could find and from there he made signs. A VW Amarok came to the rescue and after several minutes the UTV was back on track. As towing it was difficult, Terranova took the wheel and to compensate for the lack of the wheel together with two other people we got on the right rear of the Polaris to act as a counterweight. And so we reached the camp, where we were not greeted as heroes.
The experience did not have an entirely happy ending because a trip to the Rally of Morocco was at stake, a commitment in which Terranova participated in preparation for the Dakar 2012. Without a winner in the race, a draw was held among all participants. And the winner was ... the one who broke the UTV.