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SONACOME M210 winner of the Paris/Dakar Rally 1980 group 3 - Trucks

The Paris/Dakar in its African version was the biggest Rally in the world. Created in December 1978 with annual editions, it was the meeting not to be missed and which brought together the great drivers and the best vehicles in the world which put both men and mechanics to the test.

Arriving on Lac Rose was therefore a challenge, winning it was more than a fantasy feat.

The Rally-raid

The legend of the Paris Dakar retraces the most memorable and incredible adventure in the world of motor sports for four decades. Created by A.S.O (Amaury Sport Organizer), the rally-raid race had its first edition in December 1978. It is distinguished from all other disciplines by its system which takes place in several stages and brings together different categories of vehicles. The Dakar requires endurance, strategy and regularity. The winning driver is the one who manages to cross the finish line first.

This rally is used by manufacturers as a laboratory and as a showcase to demonstrate the robustness of their vehicles even if they are profoundly modified compared to the production models.

The 1980 Dakar Rally or Paris Dakar 1980 is the second Dakar Rally. His departure was from Paris on January 1, 1980. The arrival took place on January 23, 1980 in Dakar, Senegal. 216 competitors started the race. For the first time, a new category was introduced: that of trucks.

The second edition will take place a year later and will see for the first time in history the participation of the Algerian brand SONACOME in a rally.

The preparations

4 trucks were prepared and passed the tests before the Dakar event, but only 3 were lined up at the start on January 1, 1980 at the Trocadéro de Paris.

The race

This is what our national trucks did during the second edition of 1980 (then ephemerally called the Oasis Rally) which lined up for the 1980 edition (1st edition for trucks) three SOMACOME M210 6x6 trucks equipped with a powerful Deutz V8 engine developing 210 horsepower, we finished in 1st, 3rd and 4th place. Only MAN managed to interfere in this group shot to take second place. There were 10 trucks on the list at the start, and only 7 crossed the finish line in Dakar.

Note that the Algerian pilots and co-pilots are pilots working in the SONACOME company.

  • The winning crew with truck No. 228: Zohra ATAOUAT (died on 02/25/05) / Hadj Daou BOUKRIF / Mahiedine KALOUA.

  • The 3rd, the 229 of Bouzid / Daid / Mekhelef

  • The 4th, the 227 of Mouhamed Affane / Zergoun

The pilots knew the terrain like the back of their hand and used every shortcut they could, at least as far as Algeria was concerned. This is how many truck competitors, like Georges Groine said: "The Sonacome guys, we see them in the morning at the start and in the evening at the bivouac... They never take the same tracks as us!!! They are too strong!”

The winners at the trophy ceremony.

Also note that the trucks had assistance Lands which accompanied the M210s...The Algerians had also understood before many people the benefit of rapid assistance on the Dakar!

A second participation of SONACOME was planned for the 1982 edition, 2 years after the victory, but this time with an M230 which as its name indicates, with 230 horsepower, or 20 hp more than the M210 which had 210 hp with the same bodywork but different packaging with blue and white colors, and above all a change of brand name in passing, SONACOME (SOciété NAtionale de COnstruction MÉcanique) becomes SNVI (Société Nationale des Véhicules Industriels). However, the crew who were unable to depart from Paris needed administrative papers issued on time. The SNVI requested a direct departure from Algiers, but unfortunately refused! Leaving Algiers was not fair.

Surprisingly during the 10th edition of the Paris-Dakar rally in 1988, we could see this M230 on the prologue, but not as a competitor.

The winning vehicle is currently on display at the headquarters of SNVI (new name for SONACOME) in Rouiba.

To transport you back to this era, we share with you an article by Maâmar FARAH entitled: "Panorama: CHRONICLE OF A LANDLORD: Algiers-Dakar"

I wanted to see the highway. I was fed up with the desert. I have traveled extensively in the regs and ergs and I have kept plenty of sand in my memories and besides, this idiot bureaucrat is talking nonsense! The proof is that our trucks, these M 210s fresh from the Rouiba factories, which ended up winning the race, only had problems on this highway! Sacred SNTR drivers, requested by Sonacome for their mastery of the Saharan terrain and who know the desert like the back of their hand; they found a way to get lost on a… highway! We have to do it… Here we are in Ghardaïa. The stupidity of a bureaucrat and the opaque counters of the CPA kept us until the early evening. Night trip in a Brazilian Passat from El Moudjahid. A few drops of water to wash your face smeared with lividity after a sleepless night. Coffee. Milk. Croissant. And the race? She is there, in a vague field of indefinite colors. Colors of January. The dull aftermath of a New Year's Eve that we didn't have time to celebrate. A New Year's Eve that drags on like a hangover from the Saharan dawns, when the dunes and the sky begin to dream of sunshine. Sonacome brought us together a few days ago to tell us that we will have all the amenities. There, I only see Land-Rovers bearing the Sonacome logo as well as the heavy M 210s and a few Algerians sleeping on the ground, wrapped in their blankets! The camp, the tents brightened up with tones borrowed from spring, is on the other side, just opposite the fabulous racing cars, bursting with color and fascination!

We buy chèches at the local souk. They will be very useful to prevent us from catching a cold! The Sonacome guy also said that where there are hotels, we would be taken care of. He said anything because the camps were always outside the big cities and the only time we were allowed a hotel stay was in Gao. As we were tired of eating sand and shooting in the dunes, we stayed there for three days. Because the race made a loop before returning to Gao! Too bad, we won't see Timbuktu! An attractive stay shared between naps in rooms from another era and games of fun on the terraces lazily stretched out under the palm trees. Gao and its leisurely walks, its typical little restaurants,

inevitably flanked by outdoor dance floors, lulled by rhythmic African music. Gao and its history. Gao and the Algerian Revolution. We will not fail to visit the house where Bouteflika, Messaâdia, Belhouchet and Draïa stayed during their famous Malian exile... And the race resumes. Niamey. The trail is long, hellish, full of traps. A river. A little gem of a hotel with its feet bathing in water. A shady stop to chase away the dust and a big scare at the sight of a crocodile basking in the sun. Giraffes were no longer a curiosity. They have been with us for a long time now. How long a giraffe’s neck is! I had never seen a real giraffe's neck... Meeting with the Sonacome drivers. Small employees who did not yet know that they were going to create the miracle.

Every morning, you can see them doing the usual gestures, almost mechanically: ablutions, prayer, tea, spicy chickpea soup.

What about the “Sabine Organisation” food truck then? “There’s some excitement!” We insisted to them that there could be no pork for breakfast, but they didn't want to know anything. Hurting question: how can you, amateur drivers with no means, compete with these professionals, seasoned in rally raids, these billionaire stars? And how could our trucks compete with those of Mercedes, Man or Renault-Saviem? How could Sonacome's small organization, with two or three mechanics and a few spare parts crammed into a 4X4, resolve the complex breakdowns that could arise on a journey of several thousand kilometers? We saw a plane land in the middle of the desert to deliver a bridge to a Mercedes truck in difficulty! “We will have them in the fesh-fech, ya si Maâmar,” one of the drivers told me. Fesh-fech? I didn't know what that word meant and I thought it was a sleight of hand! But this word simply designates these silted areas so typical of the desert. A fatal trap for unwary pilots. And we encountered some unconscious pilots! Wheels covered in sand, faces defeated, shovels thrown out of spite and a long, tormented wait for the garbage truck!

Ah, this broom truck! He saved our lives when we got lost in the middle of the night on the Tanezrouft trail, not far from Bidon 5.

But we were even more fou that! And it was in Dakar, in a bar where the journalists were celebrating the arrival that we realized our great stupidity. It was a French colleague who called out to us, congratulating us on the first two places taken by the Sonacome trucks: “You came by plane to cover the event!”

What ? The plane ! But we crossed the desert and, besides, I allowed myself: “It’s you we didn’t see! We haven’t seen all these special correspondents from the French press!” In fact, between one city and another crossed by the rally, there was a very simple way to travel: a beautiful asphalt road, national or departmental, which was often very short compared to the hundreds of kilometers reserved for professional drivers. We had simply done the rally on the runners' side! This was the big news for the journalists present and the consumers who celebrated us like heroes: “But you did the real rally! It is not possible !

You have covered all the dangerous trails and you have arrived safely!” Dangerous, oh yes! Breakdowns, hunger, thirst, illnesses, barrels, invasion of scorpions… Long live the desert! But, in the end, what a great gift: the victory of the Sonacome trucks. Two in the lead and the third, stupidly disqualified by the highway! It was Algeria which was building its future, which was winning, which had one of the best GNPs in Africa. An Algeria which received tourists without special recommendation from the chancelleries. The Algeria of Boumediene, that before Belmokhtar, the attacks and the harragas! The Algeria of socialist renewal and great national construction, that of knowledge for all and equal opportunities; the Algeria of a strong industry, of a dignified and proud youth; the Algeria of the sons of khammès and shepherds sent to the United States to continue their studies (it is the sons of generals and ministers who are going there today!), the Algeria before the long night of renunciations, fell suddenly on our dreams. It was before the plunge into liberal nothingness, before the apprentice sorcerers of politics stepped up to mystify the people, living like pashas in the middle of the general desolation.

Algiers-Dakar? Why not ! It was enough for me to read the pride in the eyes of the young Senegalese when they approached our trucks bearing this slogan that I will never forget: “Sonacome, African manufacturer!”



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