Dakar Rally 2014: Route Details And How To Follow The Action; Will The Mini Countryman And KTM Motorbike Win Again? Does Robby Gordon Have A Chance In His Hummer?
Nearly 500 participants are tuning up their engines and getting in some last-minute workout time in preparation for Dakar 2014, which begins Sunday in Rosario, central Argentina.
The annual, 34-year-old rally, inspired by the landscape of North Africa only to be chased off the African continent by radical Islamists in 2008, will see hundreds of motorcycles, quad bikes, cars and heavy trucks race over some of the roughest desert and mountain terrain of Chile and Argentina.
Flags of different countries are displayed at the Salt flat in Uyuni, some 450 km (280 miles) south of La Paz September 27, 2013, when Bolivian authorities and residents of Uyuni celebrated International Tourism Day on the Salt Flat. Motorcycles and quad bikes will roll into the area during the Dakar Rally 2014 as the rally goes to Bolivia for the first time since it moved from Africa to South America in 2009, thanks to threats from Al-Qaeda militants in Mauritania. Reuters
The 14-day race will pit teams of racers and riders from across the globe against one another in a grueling slog that will see participants drop out along the way as vehicles and drivers are put under conditions that would turn a luxury SUV into junkyard metal in a matter of days.
The race offers automakers an opportunity to showcase the potential of many of their mainstream models. Japan’s Mitsubishi Motors, for example, has gotten a lot of traction from past Dakar rally wins for its Pajero/Montero SUV, which has won 11 of the 34 Dakar events that have taken place since 1979. Peugeot, Citroen and Volkswagen have also brought home numerous Dakar victories, and in the past two rallies the Mini Countryman has won for BMW.
The Volkswagen’s Touareg came in first from 2009 to 2011.
For the past decade, KTM, the Austrian motorcycle, bicycle and moped manufacturer, has dominated the Dakar motorbike rally. Before KTM’s Dakar reign, Toyota and Honda dominated.
Five-time Dakar winner Cyril Despres of France poses with his Yamaha motorcycle after a news conference to announce the 2014 Argentina-Bolivia-Chile Dakar rally in Paris November 20, 2013. Reuters
As for the people behind the wheels and handlebars: The man to beat in the car category this year is France’s Stephane Peterhansel. He has won the last two Dakar races (in the Mini Countryman) and has won the race 11 times, including six times on Yamaha motorcycles. The bikers will have to beat Frenchman Cyril Despres.
He’s won five Dakars, including three of the last four events. Both of these men have won the past rallies, including last year’s in similar terrain. Despres, however, has switched teams, from KTM to Yamaha, so if he wins again, KTM loses.
U.S. pilot Robby Gordon (L) poses with Argentina’s Tourism Minister Enrique Meyer after a news conference to announce the 2014 Argentina-Bolivia-Chile Dakar rally in Paris November 20, 2013. The Dakar 2014 rally will start on January 5, 2014 from Rosario in Argentina to January 18, 2014 at Valparaiso in Chile. Reuters
Many Dakar fans in the U.S. will be rooting for their home-team underdog Robby Gordon, better known to Americans as a skilled NASCAR road course driver but who has also earned his nickname “Baja Bob” for his five SCORE International wins racing on Mexico’s Baja Peninsula. He’ll be showing up again in his Hummer, which flipped over last year, costing him his chances. Here’s footage of Gordon and his Hummer fom 2013’s Dakar Rally
To truly enjoy the two-week rally, it’s best to be one of the participants, crew members or on-the-ground-spectators. Fox Sports will provide daily update coverage as it did last year. Spanish speaker can go to Fox Sports’ Ultima Vuelta web page dedicated to the Dakar rally for extensive ongoing coverage.
The Dakar Facebook page and YouTube channel will also be good sources for regular online updates. There’s also an app for the iPhone or Android devices. The first teaser video for the event was posted on Dakar’s official YouTube channel on Monday:
Founded by professional French rally driver Thierry Sabine, who was inspired after getting lost in the Libyan desert during a race from Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, to the south of France. Like so many Europeans before him, Sabine became enchanted with the North Africa desert landscape and in 1977 founded the Dakar rally.
The first rally started on Dec. 26, 1978, with 170 drivers and riders taking off from the French capital on a 6,200-mile journey through Algeria, Niger, Mail, Burkina Faso and Senegal. (Interrupted of course by the transfer of the vehicles and crews across the Mediterranean Sea.) That rally took place in 16 stages. Alain Genestier and Joseph Terbiaut won the rally driving a Range Rover (converted for heavy duty off-roading) while Cyril Neveu took the motorbike class crown that year riding a Yamaha XT500.
Ethiopian-born, France-raised Hubert Auriol became the first Dakar Rally participant to win the race in two divisions: in 1981 and 1983 riding a BMW R80G/S motorcycle and in 1992 driving a Citroen ZX Rallye Raid. Jutta Kleinschmidt of Cologne, Germany, became the first woman to win the race in 2001. Kleinschmidt and co-driver Andreas Schulz won in a Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero, which, like the Citroen ZX Rallye Raid, has had an impressive track record at Dakar.
Named after the capital of Senegal that has been the finish line of 13 of the 34 Dakar rallies that have taken place since the first one in 1979. Paris has been the starting line for nine of the rallies. But in 2008 the landscape of the rally shifted radically, thanks to Islamic radicals.
Members of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb slaughtered a French family on holiday in Mauritania on Christmas Eve, 2007, and were reportedly planning to attack Dakar participants days later.
Despite assurances from the Mauritanian government that the route would be guarded by thousands of troops, Paris-based Amaury Sport Organization, the sporting-even coordinator that owns and operates the Dakar Rally, cancelled the event just a day before more than 500 cars, trucks, quad bikes and motorcycles were to take off on their adventure on Jan. 5. A year after this interruption, the rally created to celebrate the dreamlike desert landscape of Sub-Saharan Africa moved to South America, far from the reach of religious terrorists and their IEDs. But in the southern tip of South America, Dakar Rally participants have found plenty of challenging landscape to speed over or get stuck in.
The Dakar Rally 2014 route. Dakar
THE ROUTE DETAILS
Here is the daily schedule and the challenges participants will face. Each day will have an average of 50 more kilometers to drive than last year. The distances section distances listed below are for the cars, which will cover 9,374 kilometers (5,825 miles) in 14 days.
The trucks will race 9,188 kilometers (5,709 miles) and the motorcycles and quad bikes will cover 8,734 kilometers (5,427 miles).
Jan. 5 – Rosario to San Luis, 809 kilometers (503 miles)
The race begins in Argentina with all four classes (motorcycles, quad bikes, trucks and cars) driving the same route. The tracks will be narrow, making passes more difficult. This route also has plenty of stony sections and blind-jump gaps that will pose considerable challenges.
Jan. 6 – San Luis to San Rafael, 798 kilometers (496 miles)
The Argentine landscape will open up in this stretch of desert and sand dunes, giving participants opportunities to overtake each other. Dune driving is a good test of technical skills.
Jan. 7 – San Rafael to San Juan, 596 kilometers (370 miles)
The mountains of Argentina will welcome riders and drivers on Day Three. The bikes will separate from the cars and trucks for the next 48 hours. In the shadow of the Aconcagua Volcano competitors will climb 4,300 meters.
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