The Paris Dakar Rally (or "The Dakar") is an annual, organized, professional off-road race. The race is currently sponsored by Total and organized by TSO, the Thierry Sabine Organization. Despite its name, it is an off-road endurance race rather than a conventional rally - the terrain the competitors traverse is much tougher and the vehicles used are true off-road vehicles rather than the modified sedans used in rallies.

There is also a Plymouth-Dakar Challenge, organized by an entirely different group of people and restricted to vehicles which cost their owners less than GBP100, with GBP 15 allowed for "race" preparation. The vehicles used here are mostly held together with duct tape.

Most of the competitive sections ("stages" or "specials") are off-road, over dunes, mud, camel grass, rocks, erg, etc; and vary from several kilometers to several hundred kilometers per day.

Table of contents
1 History and route
2 Vehicles and Classes
3 Sponsors
4 Television coverage
5 Incidents
6 External Links

History and route

The race originated in 1978, a year after racer Thierry Sabine got lost in the desert, and decided this would be a good location for a regular rally. Historically, the rally originally was from Paris, France to Dakar, Senegal (interrupted by a transfer across the Mediterranean); however due to politics and other factors, the course as well as the origin and destination have varied. The 2002 course was from Arras, France (near Paris), through Madrid, Spain, to Dakar. The 2000 course was from Dakar to Cairo, Egypt. Early rallies passed through Algeria, now considered one of the most inhospitable countries on earth as regards foreigners.

Vehicles and Classes

The three major competitive classes of the Dakar are motorcycles, automobiles (small trucks) and large trucks. Many vehicle manufacturers use the Dakar as an opportunity to demonstrate the durability of their vehicles, though most vehicles are heavily modified. Originally, (mostly) European utility vehicles dominated the race: Land Rover, Range Rover, Toyota Land Cruiser, Mercedes Gelšndewagen and Pinzgauer; other manufacturers entered heavily modified street vehicles such as Rolls Royce, CitroŽn, and even Porsche. Recent (2002) examples in the car class include Mitsubishi (Pajero/Montero), Nissan, and Hyundai; Mercedes, Range Rover, and BMW sport-utilities are represented but do not appear in the leader positions. Jean-Louis Schlesser builds a series of custom dune buggy vehicles for the race (and has won with them several times). American ("Baja") style pro trucks make an appearance, but are also seldom in the winner's circle. Trucks (T4 "Camions" or "Lorries") include Tatra, Kamaz, Hino, MAN, DAF and Mercedes Unimog. In the eighties a strong rivalry between two companies, DAF and Mercedes, led to vehicles which had twin engines and more then 1000 hp. Later Tatra, Perlini and Kamaz took the race up. KTM is the most popular/leading motorcycle; BMW also produces a "Dakar" enduro bike.

Sponsors

  • Total/ELF (Petrol distributor)
  • Euromaster (tires)

Television coverage

The English television coverage of the rally is narrated by retired motorcycle rider Toby Moody whose distinct
accent (especially pronouncing all the foreign names: "Schless-ah", "Shi-no-zoo-ker", "Me-oh-nee") ads to the personality of the race.

Incidents

In 1982 Mark Thatcher, son of the then British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, and his co-driver went missing for three days whilst taking part in the rally. They had become separated from a convoy of vehicles whilst stopping to make repairs. They were eventually spotted by an Algerian army search plane. In 1986, the organiser of the rally, Thierry Sabine, died in a helicopter crash. It was one of the worst years in the history of the rally. In 1988, the DAF truck, which went faster then the fastest cars of the day, crashed, killing one of the drivers. DAF retired.

External Links