- Why is it called the world’s toughest rally?
- Because of the distance, the number of days, and the toughness of the course that the rally follows.
In this rally, participants traveled from Paris, a city full of culture, across the Mediterranean to Africa, where they wove a course across the countries of the Sahara Desert with their various cultures and religions. The racers traversed the stretches of massive Saharan sand dunes, stretches with no roads and for which compasses are required, and paths strewn with boulders. Participants cannot survive with speed alone, and must in fact utilize various survival skills. The length of the entire course is staggering, as is the length travelled each day. It is the succession of such days that makes people call this race the world’s toughest rally.
Currently the general norm for the rallies held in various locations is a race period of one week and a distance of 2,000 to 3,000 kilometers. This difference in sheer scale is another of Dakar’s appeals. The toughness of the Dakar Rally remains unchanged today, although its location has now been shifted to South America. In the Atacama Desert, the driest desert in the world, racers must clear highlands that soar far beyond 4,000 meters in altitude, and occasionally scale and then descend sand dunes that are almost 1,000 meters high. To the participants that battle each other every day in races that stretch for hundreds of kilometers, the Dakar Rally is defined by the damage that it slowly inflicts on the participants’ bodies, minds, and their machines.
- So, it’s called the Dakar Rally even though it doesn’t go to Dakar ?
- Yes. Actually, there have been changes in the start and end points in the past too.
2013 will mark the 35th year of the Dakar Rally. In its history, the rally has tried a variety of different courses. In 1992, the course stretched from Paris to Cape Town (South Africa). In 1994, the race started and ended in Paris with its halfway point in Dakar. In 1997, contestants raced from Dakar to Agadez and back to Dakar. In 2000, the route extended from Dakar to Cairo (Egypt), and in 2003 from Marseille to Sharm el-Sheikh (Egypt). In this way, the race that many call “the Paris-Dakar” often takes a route that extends well beyond its name. The year 2002 marked the last rally that actually started in Paris.
- When did the Dakar Rally first take place in South America?
- The 31st Dakar Rally held in 2009 was the first. The year 2013 will mark the 5th rally to take place in South America.
The Dakar Rally receives attention from all over the world, but in 2008 it was called off just before its start due to the threat of terrorism. For the following year, the event’s organizer, ASO, decided to move the Dakar Rally from the Sahara Desert to Argentina and Chile in South America. The course that year was circular, starting in Buenos Aires in Argentina, passing through the Atacama Desert in Chile, and ending again in Buenos Aires. The circular route underwent major changes but was used until 2011.
In 2012, Peru was added as the third South American country to be included in the Dakar Rally since it was moved to the continent. The race started in Argentina’s Mar del Plata and ended in Lima in Peru, with the course being changed from a circular to a one-way route. In this way, participants face a fresh adventure each race.
In 2013, the rally will start in Lima, where it ended last year. Contestants will proceed south and cross the Andes, racing through Argentina and finishing in Chile’s Santiago.