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He worked installing irrigation for gardens, at the age of 22 he created his own company and at 43 he was in the top ten of the Dakar


Sebastián Halpern, 43, from Mendoza, finished ninth in the disputed car category. He raced a Mini T1+ that runs on biodiesel.

Mendoza's legion of riders shone in the Dakar 2023: Francisco Moreno, a young rider from Tupungato, won second place in the quads.

And in the top ten cars were Juan Cruz Yacopini (with the Toyota Hilux, in 7th place) and

Sebastián Halpern

(with the Mini from the X-Raid team, in 9th place).

Of the three,

the only one who competed as an amateur

because he does not live from sports but from his work in two agricultural irrigation companies, is Sebastián Halpern.   

This 43-year-old businessman and athlete has more than 20 years of experience in technical irrigation and is an expert in water care.

The Dakar Rally has been his passion in recent years: he ranked second in 2011 in the Quad category (quad), in 2018 he was in 8th place in the car category and in the recent 2023 edition, he was also ranked Top Ten, with 9th place.

French driver Christian Lavieille and co-driver Valentin Sarreaud (blue) and Argentinian driver Sebastian Halpern and co-driver Bernardo Graue (green) compete during the Stage 5 of the Dakar 2023 around Ha'il, Saudi Arabia, on January 5, 2023. (Photo by FRANCK FIFE / AFP)

The man from Mendoza ran with a Mini T1+, which uses biodiesel developed with waste and emits 80% less carbon dioxide.

how he lived it

“This year the goal was within that Top Ten, in preparation for a Top five in 2024 and maybe dreaming of a podium finish,” said Halpern, during the extreme competition that took place in Saudi Arabia.

But, he admitted, "we were up for more and could have stayed later."

Together with his navigator Ronnie Graue, the man from Mendoza reached 9th place in the general competition.

“It was a terrible end.

5 kilometers from the end, smoke got into us and we thought it couldn't be.

But we arrived," Halpern told Clarin, on his return trip to Mendoza.

And he mentioned that the most critical moments of the competition were the second and tenth days.

"On day 2

we hit a stone that was hidden in the sand and we broke the front differential with 250 kilometers to go before the finish

. And 20 kilometers later, the hydraulic steering broke and we had to drive what was left (230 km). without direction".

They were ranked 46th.

The days that followed managed to advance positions.

"You never have to give up, you don't have to stop dreaming and you always have to fight for your dreams," Halpern repeated like a mantra.

And he revealed what he was talking about with his partner: "With Ronni we put a lot of head into it and we said to ourselves: come on, come on, we can. It was a very mental stage, we were going to wait for the assistance truck but since it was going to take a long time, we decided to continue".

He recalled that the other day that was very difficult was the tenth: "it was very hot, a very physical day, and I needed a lot of protein supplement, I drank all the water, I thought I was dying".

The winner in his category was Nasser Al-Attiyah (Toyota), who won his historic fifth title in the Dakar Rally.

The Qatari had already won in 2011, 2015, 2019 and 2022.

For Sebastián, CEO of the technical irrigation companies Halpern and Masteragua, it was a difficult Dakar for several reasons: "Due to insecurity and the attacks in the previous edition, this time the route moved away from the cities, with camps in full desert and somehow returning to the origin of the Dakar, more isolated and without the comfort of hotels.

And, on the other hand, difficult because we had 14 stages plus the prologue.

Shaybah (Saudi Arabie), 01/11/2023.- Argentinian driver Sebastian Halpern and co-driver Bernardo Graue of X-Raid Mini JCW team in action during the 10th stage of the Dakar Rally 2023 from Haradh to Shaybah, Saudi Arabia, 11 January 2023. (Saudi Arabia) EFE/EPA/Andrew Eaton

Only on the 9th did they rest, and

the first eight were stages of more than 600 to 700 kilometers with 450 to 500 kilometers of special tests


"This forced us to spend a lot of time in the car, at high speed and very focused. It took a lot of stamina and a lot of head to withstand all that pressure added to 20 days away from family and loved ones," said Halpern.

The man from Mendoza believes that

riding with the accumulated experience on the quad was an advantage

: “In adversity and difficult conditions is where we performed best because the quad made us a little tougher.

It was a Dakar with a lot of navigation and luckily, I had my friend and co-driver Ronnie Graue with me, an excellent navigation specialist”.

The car from Mendoza in this edition is a Mini 4x4 with big wheels, in the T1+ category, 2.30 m wide body, BMW 6-cylinder engine.

“It is a car that has finished developing a few months ago and its great novelty is that it works with biodiesel made from waste, which emits 80% less carbon dioxide”, says Halpern.

TOPSHOT - Argentine driver Sebastian Halpern and co-driver Bernardo Graue compete during the Stage 5 of the Dakar 2023 around Ha'il, Saudi Arabia, on January 5, 2023. (Photo by FRANCK FIFE / AFP)

The Dakar Rally covers thousands of kilometers over a period of 10 to 15 days (as opposed to 2-3 day off-road rallies), and more than 200 riders from all over the world participate in five categories.

In addition to the professionals, who are only dedicated to training for the races, every year amateur runners such as the Mendoza businessman register and classify.

The races require navigation, which is done through a roadbook provided by the organizers and distributed at the start of each stage.

Therefore, the route is kept secret until the roadbook is delivered to the team.

The starting order of the races is set according to the time completed in the timed section of the day before and the possible sporting penalties (excessive speed on the links, missed waypoints).

In the event of a tie, the race number order applies.

Argentine driver Sebastian Halpern and co-driver Bernardo Graue compete during Stage 9 of the Dakar 2023 rally between Riyadh and Haradh in Saudi Arabia on January 10, 2023. (Photo by FRANCK FIFE / AFP)

his life story

Sebastián began working at the age of 19 when he graduated from secondary school at the Liceo Agrícola technical school, which depends on the National University of Cuyo.

It was a company of Israeli origin that installed irrigation for gardens and farms.

The 2001 crisis arrived and a year later their contractual relationship ended.

He was compensated and decided to set up his own business linked to what he had learned.

"I started from scratch providing services to farms and producers that didn't have it because many companies went bankrupt or left the country," he recalls.

He created his irrigation company Halpern y Masteragua, which in 2022 celebrated its 20th anniversary.

And it managed to extend to San Juan, La Rioja;

Río Negro, and incorporating new technology and associated with foreign companies in the field of mechanized irrigation.

His factory distributes inputs for agriculture and water supply throughout the country.

At the same time as his job as a businessman he began to train and compete for the Dakar.

He raced in 2010, 2011, and 2015 on ATVs.

He placed second in 2011, his best finish.

On that occasion, Alejandro Patronelli, another Argentine, came out first.

In 2018 and 2019, he competed in cars.

She entered the Top Ten in 2018, with eighth place.

The subsequent ones were not held in South America and it was more difficult to continue due to the logistics of the trip and the costs that a competition of this level requires.

In 2022 he ran again with the Mini team but in Saudi Arabia.

"When you talk to the foreign drivers and co-drivers, they all say they miss the routes in Latin America," he says with nostalgia for living the competition close to home.

Halpern explains that he switched from quads to cars because training on quads is very hard and it is necessary to train all year long: "You have to dedicate your whole life to it, from the early morning in the gym, to go in and it is almost impossible to have a social life and family," he warns.

Halpern is married to Cecilia Lampa and together they had Clarita, 7 years old.

His family is a fundamental pillar of his career.

"My wife and daughter send me videos during the competition to give me strength. Nothing is more important than family support," he said.

Halpern with his wife, Cecilia, and their daughter, Clarita.

I guess work commitments take away your training time, are you going to keep running?

I have many work commitments but I have a tidy schedule, I train in the morning. Anyway, maybe I stopped rallying in Argentina this year, but I'm going to participate in the world cross country championship because I'm already committed to that.

What value do you give to the Dakar Rally?

It is a personal challenge, an adventure, every year I try to improve.

A race against myself.

The drivers who win are professionals and in my case, an amateur, I aspire to be in a Top Five, which is what I could achieve.

Is age a determining factor to be placed on that podium?

I never stop training, but age is a determining factor because it is increasingly difficult to get up early to train, lift more kilos in the gym and stay strong in spirit, physique and soul.

But age helps you to be more mature, more intelligent, to have more patience and, in races like the Dakar, these are beneficial attributes.

As an entrepreneur, how do you see the productive development of the country?

Argentina, and especially Mendoza, has incredible potential.

We need politicians committed to that development and with a plan for the next 50 years, a plan that is State policy and is fulfilled regardless of the political color of the day.

Mining, Agriculture, Tourism, Industry are the bases for the future of our country.

Source: clarin

All news articles on 2023-01-17

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