The Dakar Rally is the meanest, unmerciful and most demanding motorsport event humankind has ever conjured. Formerly called as the ‘Paris–Dakar Rally’, the rally raid race (long-distance and off-road) was first held in 1979 and it ran from Paris to Senegal’s capital in Africa across 10,000km of unforgiving terrains and circumstances. In 2009, the rally shifted to South America after the 2008 season was cancelled due to security concerns. Now, for the 2019 edition, Peru is the sole host for the event. Let us take a look at all the actions hitherto through pictures.
First up, the numbers – the 2019 Dakar will run through 5000km across Peru. There are 334 vehicles competing including 167 bikes/quads, 126 cars/UTVs, and 41 trucks.
Beginning and ending in Lima, there are a total of 10 stages. Drivers don’t actually know the course of the stage, but can refer to the roadbook provided to them.
Next, they carve their way through the best possible trail. Breakdowns are fairly common occurrences here. And in the ‘marathon’, the participants cannot take any external support.
The Japanese carmaker is relying on desert-specialist Nasser Al-Attiyah while Mini was boasting of defending-champ, Carlos Sianz, being a part of their team.
Other famous names include Dakar Legend Stephen Peterhansel, Cyril Despres, Giniel de Villiers, Bernard Brinke, Nani Roma and WRC ace Sebastian Loeb who is running as a privateer in this year’s season.
Stage 1 was a short course of just 84km but it gave us a glimpse of all the upcoming Dakar action. Few metres ahead of the finish, Al-Attiyah dramatically flew past the road-opener Carlos Sianz, bagging the stage win.
Loeb competing as a privateer this year won Stage 2, thus proving his mettle. But Nani Roma gave us a photo-finish, crossing the line just 8 seconds behind Loeb.
Attiyah dropped to 11th position in Stage 2 but the worst of Dakar came to five-time Dakar stage winner, Orlando Terranova.
Orlando crashed his X-raid Mini 178kilometres into the stage. The Argentinian driver suffered back pain following the incident and was flown to a hospital.
In Stage 3, 13-time Dakar winner Stephane Peterhansel bagged his career’s 42nd stage win. Finishing second was Al-Attiyah and he took back his overall lead.
Meanwhile, veteran rally driver Carlos Saiz suffered a tyre failure just 38km into the Stage 3 and was stranded for more than three hours.
Sainz is the defending champion. But finishing 65th at the end of the third stage, his dreams of winning back the title seem to have gone up in smoke.
In Stage 4, participants were presented with fesh-fesh – a fine, powdery-type substance with quicksand-like properties which can hinder vision and trap vital parts of the vehicle.
The fourth stage also marked the start of Dakar’s ‘marathon’ leg. In the marathon, the participants are forbidden any external support.
Things got tricky for Sebastien Loeb as he had suffered three punctures and had to complete the special stage with a defective wheel after having used up all his spares.
And Giniel De Villiers ran into trouble with his engine mounting. Bernhard Brinke was stranded too, so he turned to aid his teammates in the marathon stage.
The longest Stage in Dakar 2019 was the fifth one as the drivers went furthest away from Lima where they had started the race.
Sebastien Loeb won the stage and finishing second was Al-Attiyah. This helped the Kuwaiti extend his overall lead in the championship.
The side-by-side start on the beach saw cut-throat competition between the drivers and their vehicles.
After a much-needed respite on Saturday, the stage will take a take a near-reciprocal route as it will head back to the Lima for the culmination on 17 January.