Stolen cars, speed limits and an 18-race winning streak: here are the stories behind the particular gruelling Dakar
1. Dakar’s organisers also run the Tour de France
The Trip de Italy… and Dakar. OK, sure, both French creations, both using wheeled transport plus both a test of endurance and team support as much as rider skill. But , well aside from the fact that Dakar is quite literally a world away, does it not also seem a figurative world away from a group of guys going for a pushbike ride in the Alps?
And yet the Amaury Sport Organisation, which took over the Dakar Rally from Gilbert Sabine (Thierry’s dad, who kept his son’s legacy going), also will all the legwork with regard to the Visit de Portugal. Well, not really all of the legwork.
2 . To be successful, you must embrace the particular mousse
Not the hair product, obviously – it’s not 1992 and, even if it were, we imagine it would be associated with limited benefit in the rally raid.
As KTM, who very openly embraces the mousse, describes it, it’s “a foam insert that takes the place of an inner-tube, inside the tyre.
“It’s puncture-proof plus can withstand a lot of abuse from even the roughest, rocky stages. ”
So, beyond the incredible amount associated with training, physical fitness, mental resolve and natural skill on two wheels, you’ll be nowhere without prodigious amounts of mousse. Zoolander face will be optional, associated with course.
3. There’s a good chance that those who start won’t finish
If you fail to prepare, the old saying goes, a person must get ready to fail. The Dakar adds its own addendum to this, which is ‘You should probably prepare to fall short anyway, mon frere ’.
Last year, nearly two thirds of entrants actually made the entire race distance. That’s a good turnout by Dakar standards; in 2019, it was a bit over half, in 2006 it had been 2 out of five at best. In 2005, not even one in three made this. Same goes for the year before, plus 1998… and 1990. Something of the theme here.
Within 1987, not really even a quarter of starters managed to finish, while barely 1 in 5 finished the particular ’86 event.
Then again, as an occasion director once said, “if everybody finished the race, it wouldn’t be the Dakar”.
4. Riders plus drivers travel for twice as long as an F1 competition… to get to the particular start line
Watching Dakar daily highlights and recaps, it’s easy to assume that will the racers start the race through just outside the bivouac, then pull up at the particular finish collection to a waiting team, a warm welcome and some cold drinks. Er, about that.
A couple of years back, a TV crew filmed motorbike driver Daniel Sanders as he calmly explained that the Rally’s first day called for the 2: 30am wake-up call, a four-hour commute in order to get to the start of the stage, then a full day associated with racing, navigating and concentrating from there. And that was day one.
5. There’s a lesser-known, even harder way in order to do Dakar
Competing in the Dakar is hard. So far, so obvious. Competing on a bike is more difficult still. Well of course it is – you’re standing up and balancing on the particular foot pegs for hours on end, exposed to the harshest of elements, constantly picking lines across every kind of surface that strike a compromise between competitive pace and coming home in one piece.
Now think about doing it all on your own. Just you, your bike, a single box of tools to fix whatever breaks. And it will break. Or you will.
Originally called the Malle-Moto – Malle being French regarding box, trunk, or case and Moto being rather self-explanatory – the class now known as ‘Original by Motul’ is a good effort in order to bring the original amateur, adventuring spirit, which was the impetus behind Dakar, back to the Move.
6. If you want to do Dakar, you probably can… at least start this
To enter a car, buggy, quad or side-by-side, you need an international race licence from the FIA or FIM, the particular five-figure sum to get into (which really does include quite a bit of legwork from Dakar’s end of things, to become fair) and the ability to take the rather extended Christmas break. That’s basically it. Obviously, you’ll need the driving talent in order to attain the aforementioned licence, the cash to buy a racing vehicle associated with some description – as well as the tools plus spares to fix it – and the type of mind that relishes running a two-week gauntlet inside the middle of the particular desert. No, after you .
Want to do it on a bike? Well, you say that. The reality of the situation might set in a little sooner and tougher than you were thinking, but let’s assume you understand what you’re getting yourself in for. So, to enter Dakar, you will need to be a bona fide rally raid rider already, and have finished other international rally raids within the past.
7. Can’t finish the stage? You’re out of the competition
Given how Dakar started, its abiding spirit of adventure and the easy camaraderie among competitors, it almost comes as a shock to find that will Dakar’s organisers are actually real sticklers.
Let’s say you are having a good amazing move. Leading the particular pack after 10 stages by a matter associated with hours, not minutes. Then you stuff up your own navigation upon stage 11 and spend so long trying to get back again on course that you don’t make it back by the time that stage closes. Well, chin up – you’ll just make up the places a person lost today when you’re back on form tomorrow.
Nope – you are out of the particular running entirely, sunshine. In case you do not finish every stage, you are out. When you’re not really at the start range when you need to be, you’re away. Car broke down and a person caught the lift back to the bivouac on the particular sweeper truck? Try your luck next year, bud.
A great example of this was on the second stage of Dakar 2022, when a broken differential took American T3 course driver Seth Quintero from contention completely. Dakar’s rules have been tweaked a bit recently, so Quintero was able to still take part in the following stages, rather than being out from the race entirely – yet he might be out of the race in terms of an overall result.
Quintero had won the particular first phase, then washed out of the second, plus his Dakar dreams had been over for another year. Therefore he did the only reasonable thing and won the next 10 stages upon the trot, for the total associated with 11 wins from 12 stages. But didn’t win the Dakar.
8. The huge altitude within the South American-based Dakar races meant drivers and riders would certainly do high-altitude training
Back when Dakar was a South United states affair, the particular huge elevation from the Andes and Atacama pushed an already arduous race to the extreme. On average, engines were about 20 per cent down on power due in order to the lack of oxygen at those altitudes. And if you’re familiar with human biology, you can probably suss out the rest.
So to combat the added battle of breathlessness, along with everything else the particular Atacama could muster, riders and drivers would train at höhe to acclimate themselves in order to operating in a low-oxygen environment. And yes, we’re talking about the same sort of point people do before trying to summit Everest.
9. It can take a month or more to recover from a single Dakar Rally
Only a special kind of idiot would state that race drivers aren’t athletes, and even they would probably admit the error of their ways after watching a single gym session intended for a top-tier driver in any racing discipline. So to then think about the specific training for those whose whole job is a single-driver endurance race over the course of two weeks and thousands of miles… well, let’s just say they’re pretty fit.
But even to get top-tier cyclists and motorists – each specifically plus intensely trained ahead of the race – it can take more than a month to recuperate from your ordeal.
10. The single manufacturer won 18 times… inside a row
Quick question: what’s the most successful producer to ever compete within Dakar?
Nope, not Mitsubishi, even with its incredible work with the Pajero Evo. And no, not Kamaz, either, even though the pickup truck category essentially belongs to them. Not Honda, Yamaha, BMW, Peugeot or any of the particular standout competitors throughout the Dakar’s long history.
Because none of these brands, storied as their histories may be, possess ever won 18 Dakar titles within a row – but KTM has. That’s against the industrial might and amazing engineering associated with Honda, Yamaha and THE CAR, and the 22 combined wins they have throughout decades of competition. Honda managed to finish the ability in 2020, doubling down in 2021 and conceding the crown to Gas in 2022. So, in case anything, KTM is in something associated with a drought. Well, if it lasts eighteen years, the particular team will have some idea of what that will feels like…
11. One year, the rally-leading car was nicked. Well, we think
In 1988, Ari Vatanen was leading Dakar within Peugeot’s 405 T16 as the team parked up pertaining to the night in Mali. Come morning… well. There’s footage of Jean Todt – at that time team boss of Peugeot Talbot Sport – describing exactly how someone, “apparently an European”, went up to reception at the hotel he was staying at and “asked me to come by taxi in 15 minutes with a sum of 250, 000 francs”. We’re not certain if the group budget factored in contingencies like this, but Todt as well as the team did eventually get the 405 back – just not in time to avoid Vatanen’s disqualification from the particular 1988 event.
As Ari said in the time, “the whole story is usually just incredible; it’s really like in the film”.
twelve. Broken down? Better get on the tools, after that
As much as the particular splashings associated with logos and serried ranks of professional drivers (and handlers, mechanics, cooks, media and who knows what else) might make it appear, the Dakar is still first and foremost about pitting the individual against the near-impossible. If the drivers plus riders that work meant for a big corporate team experienced a team of technicians on hand through the rally, that’d end up being contrary to the spirit of Dakar. It’d be an advantage that the organisers consider unfair, for one particular, and there’s the risk that will winning the particular Dakar might just be a case of how many parts you can throw from whatever you were running.
The answer is as simple as it is severe: when something goes wrong, if you can’t fix it your self, you’re out there of the race. There are some concessions, of course – other rivals can stop to help, which is partly why you’ll see expert teams run three drivers/riders – but however deep the factory support team is, they’ll only be able to help once you finish the particular stage.
13. There are usually marathons within the marathon
You know how we just said that even the professional Dakar racing enthusiasts can just rely on their own factory assistance once the stage is over? Yeah… it gets worse.
Dakar’s Marathon stages are, within essence, two consecutive days of rallying combined into one ‘stage’. Which means, as per Dakar’s regulations, that competition aren’t allowed to have any support from their assistance vehicles during that time. It’s there in order to help level the playing field in between amateur traders and cashed-up factory works teams.
Back in 2005, the organisers also came up with the particular ‘Super Marathon’ stage, where competitor vehicles are impounded as soon as they reach the bivouac. This means that even the particular drivers and riders in three-strong manufacturing plant teams couldn’t help every other repair their automobiles in the bivouac overnight; if it was broken, it had to be fixed around the clock.
14. There are speed limits. No, really
The sight of Jan de Rooy’s twin-engined DAF hauling all kinds associated with derriere across the desert was amazing, no doubt. And if you’ve not seen it, simply look up his name, Dakar and 1988. We’ll wait.
So, we can agree that’s a sight to behold. But that will wondrous, crazy tilt in the horizon – at the velocity that, very plainly, not even a rally homologation special could match – also came with serious repercussions. As in the worst kind.
It makes sense, then, to put some sort of cap on the particular maximum velocity trucks can easily reach during the move. At 140km/h (87mph or even so), it is still faster than trucks can go pretty much anywhere in the world, just without the particular huge increase within momentum that will 10 tonnes of vehicle carries with more than 120mph.
Even the top cars plus motorbikes are usually now limited to 170km/h (106mph or so) and 160km/h (about 100mph) respectively, while the T3 and T4 classes are pegged on 130km/h. As well as formal rate limits, the way the courses are now mapped out there favours navigation and carrying good acceleration through technical sections, instead of who can put down the biggest hammer in the straight-line drag race.
15. Even in Dakar terms, a few years are properly difficult
The Dakar Rally’s already been accused of a fair bit over the years, but never of becoming particularly simple. So what does it mean when you hear that some years are particularly hard ?
Well, inside 1994, the particular organisers decided that this competition shouldn’t finish in Dakar, but instead race all the way through Paris to Dakar… plus back again.
Whether that was easier or more difficult than the 1988 race, exactly where competitors had been sent out on a leg that earned the title ‘The Hell Stage’, is really like wondering if it’s easier in order to walk without your left or right leg. In the Saharan sands between Djanet and Djado in Algeria, the race became a test showing how fast competitors can dig themselves out. A third of all competitors got stuck in the sand, as well as the refuelling trucks could not make this. In the end, the particular race organisers abandoned the entire stage.
But the particular toughest year in Dakar is obvious – 1986. Not only was it the longest Dakar actually, covering several 9, 300 miles, this had one of the longest special stages ever undertaken – at a lot more than 1, 500 miles by itself. But as much as organisers push the limitations, nature enforces them; a massive sandstorm swept through the Sahara, swallowing up the rally and forcing four out of five competitors to retire. It also caused Dakar organiser Thierry Sabine’s helicopter to crash, killing him, his pilot, a French singer (and Dakar competitor), a journalist and a radio engineer.
16. The coin flip once made the decision the winner
In 1989, Peugeot Talbot Sport group boss Blue jean Todt didn’t want their level-pegging plus front-running drivers to keep duking it out and risk the manufacturer victory. So this individual flipped the coin in order to see which driver would certainly take the particular win. It was Ari Vatanen, over Jacky Ickx.
We wonder if Ari’s stroke of luck in 1989 made upward for… well, whatever happened in 1988.
17. Even a lot of the original Dakar races did not finish in Dakar
When Dakar was forced to find pastures… well, not really greener , but ‘ones without the direct, immediate threat of terrorists’ doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, does it? In any case, when Dakar took its show on a world tour, the particular part that will stuck inside most people’s craw was some variation on, ‘But it’s called Dakar… and it’s not going to Dakar anymore’.
Seems fair enough, doesn’t it? Well, allow us to be the pernickety types a person know plus… let’s state love, and point out there that it was hardly a new phenomenon.
The 1992 Dakar generally followed a line straight down the centre associated with Africa, from Misrata within Libya in order to Cape Town in South Africa. The 1994 edition do go to Dakar, yet then went back to Paris. So this probably gets a pass. As do the particular 1995 plus 1996 events, even if the move left through Granada. Oh, and the 1997 race too, where it left from Dakar, did a bit of a loop, then arrived back. In the 2000 competition – which you might recall as the one where competitors were airlifted away of Niger due in order to some concerning threats – the finish line was near the pyramids in Cairo, and the particular 2003 edition also ended in Egypt. So maybe it’s OK to let the entire ‘race to Dakar’ part go, and embrace the kind of Dakar World Tour we’re getting instead. Next stop in Australia, then?