- Who organizes this event?
- The event is actually organized by the Amaury Sport Organisation (A.S.O.).
A.S.O. organizes the Dakar Rally, but also many other sporting events. It is a France-based event organizer of long standing, and holds the familiar Tour de France cycle road race, the Paris Marathon, pro golf tours in France, and sailing events.
- Could you explain the difference between Liaison sections and Special Stages?
- Liaison sections are for moving between the racing areas while entrants compete against each other within the Special Stages. There are time limits for both.
The rally route is depicted in the route book provided by the organizer. Traveling, for example, from a bivouac to a Special Stage is referred to with the word “Liaison” and riders are given a generous time limit considering the distance. However, as the number of kilometers that must be covered, the number of hours in which to do this and the start time for the liaison are fixed, riders and drivers must arrive within this time. In contrast, Special Stages are purely competing stages. The entrant who records the fastest time from starting point to goal is the stage winner and stage rankings are determined by the time difference relative to the winner. In the Dakar Rally, the entrant who records the shortest total competing time over the 14 stages is the winner.
- How is the starting order determined?
- The first stage is determined according to number tag and after that it is determined by SS results.
Riders race in the different stages each day, and the times that they record determine the starting order for the next day. The first to 10th-placed riders start with three-minute intervals between each rider, the 11th to 20th riders start with one-minute intervals, and riders placed 21st and below start with 30-second intervals at the rate of one or two vehicles each.
- Are all riders that take part in the race professionals?
- The large number of amateur riders that participate is another feature of the Dakar Rally.
Many of the entrants are amateur riders. They hone their skills enough to participate in the Dakar Rally, gather the necessary funds, and take part with the dream of reaching the finish line. Completing the race itself is a victory.
The organizer, A.S.O., has set up an elite rider class for entrants. Any rider can be placed on this list, which takes into account riders’ results at races such as the FIM Enduro, Motocross and Cross-Country rallies. Therefore, amateur riders can of course be placed on this list with due respect given to their past racing achievements.
In 2013, 54 A.S.O. elite riders were credited.
- How are the entry classes divided?
- The Moto class is divided into three categories.
Group 1: Elite
Group 2.1: Super-production
Group 2.2: Marathon
TEAM HRC riders are entered into Group 1 and ride machines with yellow number plates. Detailed vehicle specifications are checked according to FIM standards.
For Group 1 and Group 2.1 class machines, there is a degree of freedom allowed for modification. There are multiple markings drawn on the engine so that parts such as the crank case cannot be changed during routine inspections. Loss of these markings leads to penalties including disqualification. During the event, the engine can be freely modified and maintenance from the crank case up (cylinder, cylinder head) is allowed. However, any maintenance conducted inside the engine crank case is considered to constitute engine replacement.
In these categories, engine replacement is often performed during rest days. Penalty time is added each time the engine is replaced, at a rate of 15 minutes for the first replacement, 45 minutes for the second, and two hours for any subsequent replacements. The Dakar Rally is a long-distance race, but since every minute and second is vital to top riders, stopping due to engine trouble can be disastrous. Therefore, many teams strategically replace engines, bearing the 15-minute penalty in mind.
The Marathon class includes enduro motorcycles in the state in which they are initially commercialized; 100 or more units of these have been produced (modifications and improvements that are necessary in order to participate in the rally, are allowed within the scope of regulations). No engine (including the engine case, cylinder, and cylinder head), frame, front fork + triple tree, or swing arm replacement is allowed. This class requires both long-distance rally racing skills and the ability to make motorcycles last the distance.