Everything is ready for the 37th edition of the Dakar Rally, universally recognized as the toughest off-road contest on the motorsports calendar. Over its storied history, Dakar has become the ultimate test of man and machine, allowing a select few the opportunity to claim victory or just finish this extreme challenge.
After 30 years in Africa, the rally moved in 2009 to South America. The spirit of the race has not changed, and this year’s event will test participants’ navigation skills, endurance, and determination to the limits through 13 demanding stages. Buenos Aires, Argentina, will host both the start and finish. Spain’s Marc Coma is the defending motorcycle champion.
From January 1-3, Tecnopolis park will serve as headquarters for administrative and technical checks, after which the rally circus will gather before what is expected to be a huge crowd at “La Casa Rosada,” the presidential palace located in the city center, for the start ceremony.
On January 4, 665 competitors representing 53 nations will leave the Argentinian capital aboard 414 vehicles (164 motorcycles, 48 quads, 138 cars, and 64 trucks). Antonio Narino will defend American colors in the motorcycle category. Southern California resident Narino will make his Dakar Rally debut in the most difficult class: Malles Moto.
“Competitors are shocked at two marathon stages,” Narino said. “For me, all stages will be marathon. I am fond of the old Dakar school, when the race was on African soil. Besides the bike, my only equipment will be an aluminum case, an extra set wheels, and a trunk on a service truck. I won’t have a mechanic or any assistance.”
On the four-wheel front, Robby Gordon, paired with Mr. Baja 1000, Johnny Campbell, will make his 11th attempt to become the first American to take overall victory. Gordon is facing a massive challenge, a single-car effort against multi-vehicle teams supported by Mini, Peugeot, Toyota, Renault, Ford, and others.
Campbell will be attempting his fourth Dakar, two of which were on Hondas (in 2001, in Africa, where he finished eighth; and in 2013, when the Japanese giant returned to the rally with a factory team after a 23-year absence). In 2012, Campbell was Gordon’s co-driver.
This year’s route will take competitors west across the Andes into Chile, then north to Bolivia. The riders will then cross the Andes again from west to east and head back to Buenos Aires on a different route. In total, they will ride 5,772 miles over vastly different terrain, more than half of it timed specials. As noted, there will be two marathon stages, during which no assistance is allowed. A rest day is scheduled for January 10 in Chile.
From the torrid temperatures of the Atacama desert to the demanding challenges of the Andes, where participants will reach 13,650 feet, a worldwide television audience will watch from beginning to end with bated breath.
Dakar 2015 – key figures
Total route: 5,772 miles
Total timed specials: 2,952 miles
Longest distance in a single day: 636 miles (Stage 12)
Longest timed special: 485 miles (Stage 8)
Shortest distance in a single day: 244 miles (Stage 13)
Average annual rainfall in the Atacama Desert (Chile): 0 in.
Vehicles: 414 (164 motorcycles, 48 quad bikes, 138 cars, 64 trucks)
Nationalities: 53, including first-time entries from India, New Zealand, and Taiwan
Spectators in 2014: 3.9 million (Argentina: 2.5 million; Bolivia: 410,000; Chile: 1 million)
TV hours: 1,200 in 190 countries
Start Sunday, January 4 – Rest Day Saturday, Jan 10 – Finish Saturday, January 17
January 4 Stage 1: Buenos Aires to Villa Carlos Paz – 411 mile liaison, 109 mile special (520 miles)
January 5 Stage 2: Villa Carlos Paz to San Juan – 66 mi. liaison, 322 mi. special (388 mi)
January 6 Stage 3: San Juan to Chilecito – 271 mi. liaison, 137 mi. special (408 mi.)
January 7 Stage 4: Chilecito to Copiapó – 369 mi. liaison, 196 mi. special (565 mi.)
January 8 Stage 5: Copiapó to Antofagasta – 148 mi. liaison, 285 mil special (433 mi.)
January 9 Stage 6: Antofagasta to Iquique – 229 mi. liaison, 198 mi. special (427 mi.)
January 10 Rest Day: Iquique, Chile
January 11 Stage 7: Iquique to Uyuni – 246 mi. liaison, 199 mi. special (445 mi.)
January 12 Stage 8: Uyuni to Iquique – 15 mi. liaison, 485 mi. special (500 mi.)
January 13 Stage 9: Iquique to Calama – 55 mi. liaison, 280 mi. special (335 mi.)
January 14 Stage 10: Calama Marathon Stage – 323 mi. liaison, 230 mi. special (553 mi.)
January 15 Stage 11: Marathon Stage to Termas Rio Honda – 100 mi. liaison, 218 mi. special (318 mi.)
January 16 Stage 12: Termas Rio Honda to Rosario – 451 mi. liaison, 185 mi. special (636 mi.)
January 17 Stage 13: Rosario to Buenos Aires – 136 mi. liaison, 108 mi. special (244 mi.)