Considered one of the most demanding races in the world, the annual Dakar Rally is a test of man and machine that requires the perfect mix of machinery, driving, and support as well as a heaping dose of luck. All these must line up perfectly even to finish the grueling race.
The Dakar Rally has been held almost every year since 1979 and while the course itself has changed a few times over the years, the difficulty and prestige that comes with finishing the race have remained in tact.
So how did the Dakar Rally get started? Back in 1978 Thierry Sabine, the race’s founder, got lost in the Ténéré desert while competing in another race. Instead of worrying about his situation, Sabine was enthralled with the landscape and upon his return to civilization; he started organizing a rally race that would become the Paris-Dakar Rally.
As the name implies, the Paris-Dakar Rally started in Paris, France and finished in Dakar, Senegal. 182 vehicles started the race in Paris, with only 74 coming out the other side. The original race was about 6,200 miles, which makes for quite the trip! To put this into perspective, it takes around 2,700 miles to drive from New York, NY to Los Angeles, CA. You could go round-trip and still have more than 1,000 miles to do!
The race remained the same until 1992 when the finish line was moved to Cape Town, South Africa, and this year also marked the first use of GPS. The race has been held every year since 1979 except for 2008, when it was cancelled due to security and safety concerns. The current course has been in place since 2009 and utilizes South Africa for the race, while the 1979-2007 races were held across both Europe and Africa.
What Makes it so Dangerous?
Billed as the most dangerous race in the world, the Dakar Rally runs through 14 stages and the aforementioned 6,200 miles. Over the course of the race 59 people have lost their lives either participating in or spectating the event. So the question is, why is this race so dangerous?
For starters, the race takes place in one of the most inhospitable places in the world. More recent races have run roughly 8,000 miles across unwelcoming deserts and a variety of obstacles not seen together in any other race.
Each driver is expected to cover up to around 500 miles per day for each stage of the race, not only making each stage a feat of driving itself, but doing this distance every day for the entire race is near madness. Think about how you feel after driving a huge distance in one stretch; now imagine doing that again each day for 14 days. Even on the road you’d be bound to make mistakes let alone the wilderness that the Dakar Rally goes through.
The 2015 Dakar Rally
This year’s rally will see entries from motorcycles, dune buggies, SUVs, and trucks. Each driver and their original vehicle must finish each stage of the race to be allowed to move on. There are no replacement vehicles or drivers, although vehicles and people can be patched up thanks to their support vehicles as the race progresses.
The 2015 Dakar Rally takes drivers across Argentina, Chile, and Bolivia across 5,600 miles of pure off-road extreme driving. This year for the first time, cars and trucks will take part in a marathon stage, which takes place over 2 days and means the drivers will have to spend a night isolated with their vehicles somewhere on the route. The entire route of the 2015 Dakar Rally can be found here.
The Grand Start will take place in Buenos Aires, Argentina, with all riders and drivers departing in groups from here on January 1st, 2nd, and 3rd. The race comes to a close at the Podium Finish also in Buenos Aires on January 17th.