Right now, if you are lucky enough to have a TV service that brings you the Dakar Rally, I envy you. I have been hooked on the Dakar for years. I would read about in the magazines, follow it on the internet and when Speed TV broadcasted it, I was glued to the TV. There is no greater test of man and machine than the Dakar. Two weeks, thousands of miles, the most extreme conditions imaginable; all on your motorbike. No fancy motorhomes, no elaborate catering, teams service the bike during the night, if you are a privateer with no team, you service the bike yourself and try to get enough sleep to start again the next morning. And, this is if nothing goes wrong.
It originally was the Paris-Dakar Rally. Paris France to Dakar Senegal Africa. Starting under the Champs Elysee in Paris, a short ‘Special’. Across the French countryside to the Mediterranean. An overnight ferry ride and you’re in Africa, now the Dakar really starts.
The rally features cars, motorbikes and trucks. Cars that many of us here in the USA never see, motorbikes specially built and trucks…BIG trucks. The trucks are the wild part of the race I think. In years past it was the support trucks that had their own race, now they have their own class and it is amazing to watch. Next to the motorbikes it is my favorite race to watch.
Things changed this year however, the rally has moved to South America. Two years ago a section of the rally in Africa was cancelled due to terrorist threats. The entire event had to be airlifted half way across the continent. Hundreds of cars,trucks,motorbikes and support teams. What a monumental effort. Last year, 2008, the rally was all set to go, everybody was there. Riders, drivers, mechanics and staff. At the last minute, literally the last minute, the race was called off again due to terrorist threats. All that time, effort and money wasted because of a few dangerous nutballs. I have friend who was part of a team, they spent a year building and testing their bike. They were there in the bivouc excited as hell to be there and then to have it all tossed away. Heartbreaking to say the least. At the US MotoGP round at Laguna Seca last summer, I had a chance to talk with Toby Moody about the threats. Toby was the announcer for the English speaking television broadcasts. He said it was very real and everybody felt very unsafe.
The end of the Dakar? No way. The organizers basically told Africa, you don’t want us…OK, we’ll go somewhere else. South America was more than happy to have the rally. Over three months time a route was planned, Argentina to Chile and back to Argentina. Fourteen days…the Andes, the Patagonia, the Atacama Desert…from below freezing to 100*. This will be the the rally of rallyes.
If this piques your interest go to the official website www.dakar.com everything is there..video, photo gallery, news, the route, history…you can even buy Dakar T-Shirts!!! Wouldn’t you be stylin’…
It is the mother of all motor racing, a true spectacle. Take a look at it and you’ll be hooked too. Now, if only my TV service provided coverage…sigh. I guess I’ll wait for the video.