“A challenge for those who go. A dream for those who stay behind.”
The Dakar rally doesn’t hang around in any sense of the word. Barely has the new year started when several hundred certifiably insane drivers and riders jump in their buggies, trucks, cars and bikes and set off to tackle the most challenging and dangerous rally-raid in the world, period. Today the teams are going through final scrutineering in the Peruvian capital of Lima on the penultimate day before the rally kicks off. Tomorrow, they head out into the unknown. Man and machine navigating through nomadic nature and some of the most extreme terrain going.
The modern route switched from the African continent to South America back in 2009 after political upheaval and terror threats caused the cancellation of the rally in 2008, and this year’s fifth South American event will pass through Peru, Argentina and Chile. The countries may have changed, but the rally itself is as daunting as ever: 15 days and over 8,000km across deserts, rocks and mountains; from the top of the world to sea level. The route tracks the continent’s western coastline, passing through iconic, historical locations like Nazca and Arequipa and tackling the largest chains of dunes ever seen on the Dakar before diverting inland and over the Andes mountains for the Argentinian leg to the plains of Cordoba. Heading back across the Andes, the competitors then have to tackle the extreme endurance challenge of mountains and coastal dunes on the final run to the finish in the Chilean capital of Santiago.
53 nations are represented across the 459 entrants; the youngest rider is just 19, the oldest driver 71. All the expected legends of the rally will be out, including Carlos Sainz, Robby Gordon, Nasser Al-Attiyah and Stéphane Peterhansel. Toyota vs Hummer vs Mini vs Mitsubishi… even Chinese brand Great Wall have entered in 2013. On top of keeping going both mechanically and psychologically, the additional challenge is simply getting from one end of the stage to the other. There are no markers or signposts: GPS and maps are the drivers’ tools, their hands and feet the only thing between them and disaster.
This video shows some of the challenges that lie ahead: the Dakar requires a complete recalibration of your interpretation of tough driving conditions. We’ll be bringing you updates as the rally unfolds.
Dakar Rally 2013