If you are into extreme sports and have tried many of them, why not go for one of the most extreme ones? In order to be a participant here you will need to have all fear generators removed from your brain and still be a bit crazy.
The Dakar Rally is not exactly a rally, but an endurance rally raid. The race is open to amateurs and professionals, which means that almost anyone can enter and the number of amateurs comes up to 80% of the participants. Apart from suicidal tendencies and already mentioned lack of fear you will also need money or a sponsor.
So, why is it so dangerous?
We already said that it is not really a rally. The tracks are a lot more difficult and most rally cars that are modified versions of road cars, however amazing they might be, would have no place here. You will need a real off-roader for this. The terrains are diverse including mud, grass, rocks and sand dunes and the stages are very long (up to over 500 miles) and demanding.
Where is it?
Dakar is a place in Senegal and the first Dakar Rally was driven in 1978 from Paris, France to Dakar, Senegal. But, this course has changed many times in its history due to military conflicts and politics. The 2008 rally was even canceled due to terrorist threats in Mauritania, even though the Mauritanian government promised loads of security. But vast and remote locations would be extremely hard to secure, so the rally was canceled and, the next year, moved to South America where it has been ever since.
What can you drive?
Virtually anything that can go off road. There are three general competitive classes and all of them have at least two sub-classes.
The first one is motorcycle class that includes regular off-road bikes as well as quadbikes. They are usually very fast and easy to maneuver, but also very dangerous, since driving extremely fast on two wheels over the wild terrain that has almost never seen tires does not sound like the safest thing to do. Many motorcyclists have had serious crashes and many of them died including Pascal Terry, Andy Caldecott and Jose Manuel Perez as well as the two-time winner of the rally Fabrizio Meoni.
The second class is the car class which is divided into three categories. Many famous street models have been used in this race, but they had to be heavily modified in order to be able to fight the challenges. Many famous car manufacturers enter the Dakar Rally and use it as a testing venue as well as a great presentation of endurance of their cars, even though most of those cars are built just for this rally. So, you shouldn’t expect your stock VW Touareg to do well here.
The final class is the Truck class and it might be difficult to imagine how such large and heavy vehicles can compete in this terrain, but you would be surprised how successful some of them are, Vladimir Chagin being the best known driver of trucks with seven Dakar Rally wins.
Throughout years, about 60 people, including 25 competitors, have died during the Dakar Rally and many more have been injured. But the Dakar Rally remains one of the best known and most difficult races that is open to almost anyone. You don’t need loads of reputation, experience and licenses that are almost impossible to get. You just need to love off-road driving and be one huge adrenaline junky.
This year the Dakar Rally starts on January 5th so it might be a bit late to enlist now, but this gives you the opportunity to get to know the rally and, if you like extreme sports, get ready for the next year.