An Introduction to Dakar Rally

Updated: Jan 27

Written by Ekaterina Nizovtseva, Edited by Nabiha Khan


Rally-raids are one of the oldest forms of auto racing since motorsport originated as a race from one city to another. However, the quality of the roads between them often left much to be desired, and the races of that time did not differ so much from the current rally raids. The principle of the rally itself is that a race of this type takes place on either a highway, gravel, or asphalt. The length of the rally does not have to be long. However, the reason for the name of a large-scale race “Dakar Rally” in the desert with the word “rally” is not obvious. Dakar is the direct opposite of such a race – the race goes for a long distance, and there are no roads at all. The whole point of Dakar is to test the capabilities of man and transport. The organizers tried to eliminate the misunderstanding by introducing the term “rally-raid” for off-road racing, but the term never became popular.

Surprisingly, Dakar was born by accident. In 1977, French motorcycle racer Thierry Sabin, who participated in the rally-raid “Abidjan-Nice”, got lost in the Libyan desert. He survived by a miracle – he was found only three days later, but during those days the idea came to Sabin’s head to arrange a permanent race in Africa, which will be unparalleled in its level of complexity.

That’s why every year the organizers try to make the race more difficult and the navigation much more complex. Nevertheless, last year the Organizing Committee revised the rules concerning safety conditions – every driver must now wear airbag vests, and each vehicle must have an electronic roadbook installed. In the future, organizers want to “transform the energy landscape”.

Quick fact file:

All participants of the race must strictly follow the set route and perform daily tasks.

The length of the route can be up to 15000 km. About half of it is occupied by so-called “special stages”: sand, mud, grassy soils, rocks.

The entire track is divided into daily continuous stages. The length of each is up to 900 km.

As a rule, one day in the middle of a rally is a “rest day – no races are conducted.

Routes for motorcycles, cars, trucks, and ATVs vary in complexity and length. The winner is determined in each mode of transport.

The month of the event is January.

The next Dakar Rally will be held on January 2nd, 2022 in Saudi Arabia.

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