Being a petrolhead and a bike enthusiast, I’m a huge fan of motorsports. It all started with MotoGP when I was a kid. At that time, and even now, the thrill of watching my favorite racer scrapping his knees and elbows and finishing the race with the front wheel up in the air was all I needed to get my day done right. I was unaware of other motorsports of these sorts.
As I grew older, I came to know about the Isle of Man TT. I watched a few videos related to the road racing and got stunned. I couldn’t believe the sheer speed and risk involved in the entire race. There are no run-off areas, no gravel to slow you down. If you make a mistake, you’ll ram into a wall of a house, or slid off a cliff, or whatnot. I mean these guys are popping wheelies on corners doing 100+ mph. That’s insane! Isle of Man TT made me realize there’s always something greater in the world. And I was so proud of myself to be aware of such cruel yet exciting motorsport because not many people knew about it.
Source- YouTube (channel- Lockk9 TT Racing)
For the next few years, I was occupied by either MotoGP or Isle of Man TT. Until Dakar came into my life. The Dakar introduced me to a number of different aspects of racing and left me in utmost awe. It was such a strong emotion that stormed my mind; respect, determination, perseverance, not giving up, will power, faith; I’ve been missing all of that my whole life! It was then I started to dig out the history of Dakar – the most arduous rally of all times. And I’m sharing a bit of that with you in this story.
It was back in the mid-1990s when a guy named Thierry Sabine got lost in the Lybian desert during the Abidjan-Nice rally in 1977. He traveled a lot in the desert and was overwhelmed by his experience being there. No one knew, not even he, that him getting lost in the desert would birth to world-famous motorsport.
After he returned from the desert, he wanted others to experience the same thrill and adventure. So he designed a route through the desert that connected Paris to Dakar in Senegal. And this was the beginning of the Paris-Dakar.
Yes, that’s right. Dakar was initially called Paris-Dakar. It was because of some events later on that caused the name to change. Keep reading, you’ll know what happened.
The route that Thierry Sabine marked covered 6000 miles. And on 26 Dec 1978, 170 competitors left Paris on this rally raid. The event became a global success. This continued for a few years until the mid-1990s when organizers wanted to make the rally more creative and exciting for the participants. So they changed the routes and even the starting points. Soon, this led to the dropping of ‘Paris’ from the name, and what left was only The Dakar.
Today, even though the race has moved to South America, the name has remained intact. Dakar 2019 was the 41st edition of the rally raid. Ever since it commenced, it has been organized each and every single year except in 2008 when the rally was canceled following the murder of French tourists in Mauritania where stages of the race were to be held. Later, increasing tensions in Africa left the organizers no other option to relocate the event to South America in 2009.
So that was a quick glimpse into the history of the Dakar. This year’s rally was hosted by Peru. The route covered 3,100 miles through the Sechura desert, south of the country, creating a 10-stage loop between Lima and Tacna, including a stop in Arequipa. Each stage demanded to cover between 200 and 500 miles. It was the first time in the history of Dakar that the entire rally was confined within the borders of a single country.
Types of classes
I have always been interested in the motorcycle class. Riding on two wheels on unfamiliar, never-seen treacherous terrains at high speeds in the middle of nowhere needs a lot of courage and determination. However, there are other classes as well.
Dakar has a total of 5 types of classes (including the motorcycle class) in which people can participate. These classes include quads, side-by-side (S x S), cars, trucks, and motorcycles. Irrespective of the class, all vehicles are heavily customized or modified for the rally. Some of the primary changes include all-terrain tires, long-travel suspensions, modified fairings and bodies, roll cages, etc.
Motorcycles are also customized to bear the beatings of the unforgiving race. And to help the riders navigate through the unmarked deserts, motorcycles are fitted with a navigation tower that replaces the usual gauge cluster. and the digital or mechanical modules display the Tulip diagrams and distances (either on a screen or on paper).
This year’s Dakar witnessed over 500 riders and drivers participants. Out of these around 150 of them were on motorcycles. Another interesting fact about Dakar 2019 is that since it was held in South America, we got to see a whole lot more of local participants and rookies. Some of the motorcycles that were a part of the race include Yamaha 450WRC, Yamaha WR450F, KTM 450 Rally, KTM 450 EXC-F, KTM RR450, Hero 450 Rally, Sherco TVS 450 Rally, and BetaRR430.
While the Dakar is open for all kinds of participants, not everyone can just go ahead and sign up for it. You’d need a very good financial support to get in and going. Just the subscription in the rally would set you back by tens of thousands of dollars. Then you would need to have a ride which needed to be properly modified for the rally. On top of that, you would also need to have spares. Other expenses include travel, accommodations, support crew, mechanics, etc. So unless you’ve won a million dollar lottery, it is highly advised to find sponsors to make things a bit easier. And sponsors are no fools.
Dakar 2019 has just ended. Just like always, some got lucky and had their share of win, while others crashed or were just unlucky to have the crown. No matter what, every single person who has been a part of this race gets to take home an experience like none other.
Following are the top 5 names in the motorcycle class after stage 10-
TOBY PRICE – RED BULL KTM FACTORY TEAM – 33H 57’ 16”
MATTHIAS WALKNER – RED BULL KTM FACTORY TEAM – 34H 06’ 29”
SAM SUNDERLAND – RED BULL KTM FACTORY TEAM – 34H 10’ 50”
PABLO QUINTANILLA – ROCKSTAR ENERGY HUSQVARNA FACTORY RACING – 34H 18’ 02”
ANDREW SHORT – ROCKSTAR ENERGY HUSQVARNA FACTORY RACING – 34H 41’ 26”
So now what? I’ll keep myself busy for the remaining part of 2019 in MotoGP and Isle of Man TT, until next time the unforgiving Dakar returns in 2020.