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The Bandama and Côte à Côte rallies at the origin of the Dakar Rally thanks to Jean-Claude Bertrand

Jean-Claude Bertrand the designer of Rallye


The idea of these major African Raid rallies (there already existed African rallies but their scale remained local) comes from Jean-Claude Bertrand, a colorful character steeped in passion.

This name may not mean anything to you, but he is behind the creation of the biggest African rallies.

Already at the age of 16 he found himself behind the wheel of an old Dodge truck, transporting bananas from the family plantation while developing a passion for herpetology. He enhances his activities as a planter and his trade in coffee, cocoa and yams in Lobi country with crocodile hunting and snake breeding.

It was the good times. There were few foreigners in Côte d'Ivoire, everyone knew each other and certain planters and other foresters challenged each other to speed aboard the pick-ups of the time - GMC or Chevrolet - on the rutted tracks of the Bush.

The speed virus finds fertile ground in Jean-Claude who decides to see what is happening elsewhere in the field of competition. He then participated as an amateur in almost all of the major European rallies of the time.

He created the first major African Rally, the Bandama, named after the river which crosses the Ivory Coast from north to south.


The Ivory Coast Bandama Marathon Rally



1st edition 1969


In 1969, pushed by many other enthusiasts, he decided to create the first “International Bandama Rally”. Using his European connections in the sporting world, he convinced his friends, the great drivers of the time, that he had a very large press team... and the journalists that he had an enormous team of drivers! Everyone believes in it and he announces that he is organizing the most beautiful and toughest rally in the world!

The 1st International Bandama Rally which took place on December 6 & 7, 1969 saw the victory of the crew Mr. and Mrs. Gérenthon on R8 Gordini.

It was with great pleasure that all the athletes welcomed the deserved victory of this experienced crew who had perfectly grasped the regularity side of this Rally. Fifty-eight competitors were entered.

There were: 35 cars in Group I, 9 cars in Group II, 8 cars in Group III, 4 cars in groups IV and V. This is how 58 competitors, all experienced drivers, initially met there. eight days at the Hôtel Ivoire to draw lots for their starting number, the atmosphere was very sporty.

A series of tests awaited them:

Connection sectors (Abidjan - Yamoussoukro; Yamoussoukro - Bouaké - Abidjan) i.e. a distance of 1115 km; and additional ranking events: timed average, 1 km acceleration in Abidjan, 1800 m speed race on the Port of Abidjan circuit, 400 m acceleration test from Yamoussoukro, a 500 m speed test on the Bouaké karting circuit, finally a handling test in Abidjan.



Certainly this first Bandama Rally was not a marathon; nevertheless the African spirit of the events highlighted efficient and resistant crews, worthy of being included in the international rankings.

It also served as a test bed, making it possible to identify a more interesting formula for the future.


The second edition in 1970



28 starters, 5 classified.

1st Schuller on a Datsun 1600 SSS, 2nd Spinelli on a Toyota 1900 SL, 3rd Reignien on a Renault 16 TS, 4th Cerf at the wheel of a Renault 16 TS and 5th Saucet on a Toyota 1900 SL.


3rd edition of 1971



The presence of European rallymen like Bob Neyret gives the rally its international