Strictly speaking, it’s not a rally in the traditional sense of the word. More truly defined as a ‘rally raid’, Dakar is an extreme off-road endurance race. When watching the sport, its extremeness is immediately obvious first by the huge dunes and extreme off-road terrain they traverse, and secondly by the highly modified vehicles the racers drive.
This year’s rally raid covered 9000 kilometers across the South American countries of Peru, Bolivia and Chile, all in just 15 days. That’s serious racing.
Dakar is particularly exciting to watch because it’s open to more vehicles classes than a conventional rally. Here you will see various breeds of elite and production motorbikes and quadbikes. There is even a truck category, and it’s a truly impressive sight to see these crestings the sand dunes and barreling down the other side.
Christian Vinces / Shutterstock.com
As for the cars, it’s open to a number of classes, but to take first prize you really need an ‘improved’ off-road vehicle. For the past 4 years running, first place has been taken out by the X-Raid team in their MINI All4 Racing car.
This beast of a machine takes the form of a MINI Countryman, but after heavy modification, seems more tank than car. Using a 3.0L BMW diesel engine that’s no longer limited by noise regulations it certainly sounds more like a tank. All up, loaded with fuel, the rally car weighs close to 2500 kgs (and that’s with a carbon fibre body). This is largely due to regulation – the car has to be tougher than the brutal terrain it has to navigate.
To prepare for Dakar, you need to be physically and mentally fit; involving special training to stay motivated, maintain self-control and manage stress. Drivers go through intense physical preparation as well, tuning their bodies on strict diets and training regimes. This helps them recover more quickly, and essential trait for a 15-day endurance race.
Preparations are well under way for the Dakar 2016. Stay up to date by joining the almost 1.2 million Facebook fans as we wait for January to roll around to watch the excitement all over again.