The adventure began back in 1977, when Thierry Sabine got lost on his motorbike in the Libyan desert during the Abidjan-Nice Rally. Saved from the sands in extremis, he returned to France still in thrall to this landscape and promising himself he would share his fascination with as many people as possible. He proceeded to come up with a route starting in Europe, continuing to Algiers and crossing Agadez before eventually finishing at Dakar.

The founder coined a motto for his inspiration: “A challenge for those who go. A dream for those who stay behind.” Courtesy of his great conviction and that modicum of madness peculiar to all great ideas, the plan quickly became a reality. Since then, the Paris-Dakar, a unique event sparked by the spirit of adventure, open to all riders and carrying a message of friendship between all men, has never failed to challenge, surprise and excite. Over the course of almost thirty years, it has generated innumerable sporting and human stories.

The Dakar is a unique motor racing event and is known to evoke exceptional human adventure that deeply transforms each participant. It is an invitation to live intensely and responds to a quest of extreme sensations. The Dakar is atypical by its assumed extreme character; it is a unique adventure in the wilderness, a real-time exploration that demands extreme sporting, physical and mental aptitudes. The Dakar is daring: it reinvents and adapts to different contexts and offers a new adventure every year. The Dakar is intense: it takes place in extreme conditions on difficult terrains, demands endurance and concentration. Until the last minute, nothing is ever won. The Dakar is committed: organized with meaning, reasonability and solidarity, it forges links with the peoples of the countries it crosses.

After the murder of four French citizens and three Mauritanian soldiers in the previous days before the start and answering the strong recommendation of the French Ministry for Foreign affairs not to go to Mauritania, the 2008 edition of the rally was cancelled. Terrorist acts identified by the French authorities threatened the rally directly. On the eve of the start, Etienne Lavigne was forced to announce the cancellation of the 2008 edition. The competitors gathered in Lisbon for scrutineering had to deal with the shock and saluted the responsible decision of the organisers. The following year, the Dakar moved to South America, offering the same diverse and challenging landscape but in a much safer geo-political environment.

This year, Paraguay has become the 29th nation to welcome the Dakar on its soil. Senegal is the country that has hosted the Dakar the most, a total 28 times, ahead of Mali (22), France (21) and Mauritania (20).

Another thing that makes the Dakar extra interesting for us is the participation of Sam Sunderland, a Dubai-based British ride who made his Dakar Debut in 2012. Sam has won numerous UAE National Baja Championships is well known as an approachable and friendly rider in the Middle Eastern riding community. Riding for the factory Honda team in 2014, Sam became the first British rider to win a stage of the Dakar since John Deacon in 1998 when he won the second stage to move up to third in the overall classification, only to suffer engine failure the following day and drop out of the rally. Later that year, he was signed to the factory KTM team, winning two stages of the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge and placing second in the Morocco Rally. Sam went on to win Morocco rally in 2015 and won Qatar sealine rally in 2016. Sam has the potential to win and has shown his hunger to grab the title every single time he has ridden in the Dakar.