It’s the world’s most brutal race; spanning over 8000 km of harsh South American desert and mountainous terrain. Dubbed an off-road endurance race, drivers are faced with searing temperatures and treacherous conditions. Even this doesn’t stop hundreds of adrenaline junkies flocking to take part every year, and with around 80% of these being amateurs, we look at what it really takes to become a part of the world’s toughest motorsport.
How it all started
In 1978, when Thierry Sabine got lost in the desert, he was inspired. The very next year, the first Dakar Rally, running from Paris to Dakar in Senegal, took place. Since then, the route has changed a number of times, creating new challenges for the drivers and riders.
In 2009, the Dakar, as we know it today, began. The move to South America came amidst fears of terrorism, but, with the race maintaining its name and harsh reputation, none of its appeal was lost. Racers, starting off in Buenos Aires, were to have 15 days of relentless driving and only one day of rest.
Taking part takes preparation. There are registration fees to pay, for your vehicle and for each person in your vehicle. You’ll also need to make sure you have, if you require one, a valid visa. Motorcyclists and quad riders require a FIM international license, whilst car and truck drivers must possess an FIA international license.
That’s the easy part. Now it’s time to prove your worth. This year, the rally opened up its selection process to include four events. Taking place in Asia, Africa and Oceania, the challenges were designed to find new talent, with two cars and two bikes getting to the starting line this way.
Forget what you learnt in your driginv lessons. It’s not going to help you here. To succeed, competitors must show endurance, commitment and, above all, a competitive streak. Evan Hutchison, winner of the Toyota Kalahari Botswana 1000 Desert race, was South African champion in 2011, and said he ‘couldn’t think of anything better than winning this race’ at the same time as booking his place in the Dakar.
In this years race there were 188 bikes, 32 quads, 173 cars and 76 trucks. Choosing and preparing your vehicle is a vital part of the race. Not only do you want it to stand out, but you need to make sure it’s going to cope until the end. They’ll be put through their paces in the blistering heat, with the rocks underneath posing a constant challenge.
The driving conditions are, in fact, so severe that there have been 21 fatalities since the race began in 1979, with one, motorcyclist Jorge Andres Boero, losing his life this year.
This race is not one for the faint-hearted, but, for many, the Dakar Rally is a dream to fulfill. Whilst some fail to make it to the end, those who do, return to undertake the brutal challenge year after year.
So, do you still think you could do it?