Dakar: A Gruelling Masterpiece

Dakar 2022
Dakar 2022

Dakar 2022

2022 like every year will start off with a bang for all motorsports fans around the world. The Dakar Rally will once again begin on the 1st day of the new year. As a result, by the time you are reading this article in the Motor Vikatan January issue, the rally would have started and maybe even finished!

What’s special about the Dakar Rally?

Dakar: A Gruelling Masterpiece

Considered to be the toughest rally in the world, the Paris-Dakar Rally as it was originally called, started in 1978. Participants started in Paris, France and rode/ drove to Dakar in Senegal, covering around 10000 km. The first iteration saw 182 vehicles at the start line and only 74 managing to finish. As the years passed, the sport first grew in popularity, with the number of participants increasing, before it hit a roadblock due to a myriad of reasons. Foremost of it being the number of deaths of racers and spectators.

The 2008 rally was cancelled due to terrorist threats along the route in Africa and eventually the rally was shifted to South America from 2009 to 2019. 2020 saw the rally moving to Saudi Arabia and the upcoming edition will be the third in this country.

In recent years, the rally has become tougher, with more investment by manufacturers in the sport and an ever-growing fanbase.

2022 will see top rallyists from around the world participating in the Dakar, where it will start on the 1st of January with a prologue stage. It will then be followed by 12 stages around the Saudi Arabian desert covering 7500 km in two weeks and ends at Jeddah. Around 300 racers across categories are going to be at the start line. How many will finish?

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Dakar: A Gruelling Masterpiece

As always, the cynosure of all eyes will be the rally cars. This year, there is a major shakeup in the rules for 2-wheel drive and 4-wheel drive vehicles and that is going to heat up the competition. Especially between Mr. Dakar Stephane Peterhansel, who has won 14 Dakars, including the 2021 iteration and Nasser Al-Attiya, 3-time winner. Carlos Sainz, Sebastian Loeb and Nani Roma will also be strong competition for the win.

Among the cars there will also be the Audi Q e-tron, as the name signifies, this is a step in going fully electric at the rally. This Audi sports an electric drivetrain and whips out 671 HP and a torque curve starting from the bottom. The vehicle has not yet made a public appearance at this level and we are all keenly interested in seeing how it fares.

The motorcycles see a level playing field, quite unlike the sand dunes they will be riding. The last 5 Dakars have seen different winners, and all those 5 will be racing this year. We also are delighted to once again have an Indian racing the Dakar. In his third year Harith Noah, will be racing for Sherco TVS. 2021 saw Harith finishing an incredible 20th, he will be hoping to improve this year.

Vying for the win on motorc ycles will be 2021 winner Kevin Benavides, Ricky Brabec, Sam Sunderland, Mathias Walkner and Toby Price. Another interesting rider to watch will be Danilo Petrucci, who just a month back was racing a KTM in MotoGP, he will now be racing the Dakar again on a KTM. With little more than a month of rally training, Petrucci will make for a good yardstick to see the difference in the two disciplines of premiere motorcycle racing.

Besides the cars and bikes, there will also be the quads, side-by-side vehicles, and the completely insane trucks racing at the Dakar.

Dakar: A Gruelling Masterpiece

The brutal Dakar rally is also unique in the form that men and women compete on equal terms. There are few other sports in the world where this is possible. 2001 had seen Jutta Kleinschmidt, a female German driver, win the Dakar outright. She had previously won stages and even raced motorcycles. The 2022 edition will also see 6 women racing the Dakar on bikes, cars and SSVs.

In the previous two editions of the Dakar at Saudi Arabia, we have seen the most consistent pilots winning. Many a fast athlete, lost time during navigation. This year will see everyone working on their navigation skills to make up time on their rivals.

The Dakar doesn’t come with its inherent risks of drivers and riders speeding along the dirt in unknown terrains. 31 competitors over the years have died in various incidents. Most rallyists have crashed multiple times at the Dakar and have had their bodies badly mangled. Yet, they return. They are a testament to the in dominatable spirit of humans…