Photo: Dakar Rally
Famed as the longest, most brutal off-road race in the world, the Dakar Rally is open to amateur and professional entries. Fifteen stages are driven over a two-week period. In 2011, 430 participants from 51 countries are competing in four classes: motorcycles, quad riders, car teams and truck teams. The rally takes place over 5500 miles where competitors will battle desert sands, high altitude and precarious mountain passes. Only 40 percent of the entrants typically make it to the finish line.
On this last special stage of the Personal Dakar Argentina Chile, Marc Coma reached his third Dakar victory by keeping Cyril Despres under control. The easy route turned into a nightmare for “Chaleco” who lost a third place on the podium and in the standings to Helder Rodrigues due to mechanical breakdowns. In the car category, Nasser Al Attiyah gets his very first final victory in a Dakar way ahead of Giniel De Villiers. As for Vladimir Chagin, he wins his seventh Dakar and finishes the raid ahead of three of his Kamaz team mates.
This years race boasts 57 Cars, 94 Bikes, 14 Quads and 41 Trucks.
The adventure began back in 1977, when Thierry Sabine got lost on his motorbike in the Libyan desert during the Abidjan-Nice Rally. Saved from the sands in extremis, he returned to France still in thrall to this landscape and promising himself he would share his fascination with as many people as possible. He proceeded to come up with a route starting in Europe, continuing to Algiers and crossing Agadez before eventually finishing at Dakar. The founder coined a motto for his inspiration: “A challenge for those who go. A dream for those who stay behind.” Courtesy of his great conviction and that modicum of madness peculiar to all great ideas, the plan quickly became a reality. Since then, the Paris-Dakar, a unique event sparked by the spirit of adventure, open to all riders and carrying a message of friendship between all men, has never failed to challenge, surprise and excite.
In its South American guise, it begins in Buenos Aires, on the Plaza de la Republica and runs through Patagonia, the Andes Mountains, along the shores of the Pacific Ocean in Chile and back to Argentina through the Atacama Desert, the driest place on earth.