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Portuguese race car driver Madalena Antas competes in rally-raid events, driving all-terrain trucks such as a fully race tuned 400-horsepower Nissan Pathfinder. She began her career in her native Portugal, clinching two female titles in the National Off-Road Championship. In 2007, she competed in the Lisboa-Dakar rally.
As first appearances go, it’s very high-profile. For her inaugural Euromilhoes-Lisboa-Dakar rally, Madalena Antas is aiming solely to reach the finish, but as a mob of admirers thronged around her during the verifications, one could have been forgiven for thinking that this attractive 29-year-old Portuguese, who has twice been national women’s all-terrain champion, was targeting victory. Admittedly, it was easy for her most fervent fans to accompany her at the start, as her home town of Cascais is just a few kilometers from Belem Cultural Centre, but that’s not the only reason for the enthusiasm surrounding her.
“Portuguese people love mechanical sports and are therefore extremely demanding with regard to their representatives. I’m continually being approached by the national media, who all speak to me about possible targets or even stage victories on home soil during the first two stages. They simply don’t realize that for a first Dakar, just reaching the finish is a victory in its own right,” this native of Rio de Janeiro explains.
But at the wheel of a new-generation Nissan Navarra pick-up and with a former stable co-driver alongside her in Michel Polato, this art student has all the elements in place to do well, a fact which only serves to increase the pressure. “Originally, we were going to be in a Patrol GR, which is much less competitive, but a month before the start, Promotech finally decided to entrust me with a real race car. It’s fantastic, but also more stressful as it’s an unforgiving vehicle. What’s more, I haven’t even driven it yet, so I can’t wait to test it out.”
As she seeks to aims to restore family honour (her mother, Teresa Cupertino De Miranda, took part in the Paris-Le Cap Dakar, without however completing the course), rapid familiarisation with her vehicle amounts to a vital prerequisite. “My mother has given me tremendous support throughout my preparation and, as she’ll be accompanying me in assistance, I’d dearly love to give her a place on the podium by proxy.”
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