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The Dakar 2012

December 15, 2011 8 Comments

The Dakar 2012

The details of the Dakar 2012, which will take place between 1st and 15th January in Argentina, Chile and Peru, were unveiled in the morning of November 8th 2011 in Paris. The route's characteristics, just like the game of musical chairs evident amongst the pretenders to the crown, promise a race full of thrills and spills.

Before discovering the 2012 edition it’s important to make a brief historic repeal of this completion. 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. Over the course of almost thirty years, it has generated innumerable sporting and human stories.

Thierry Sabine's gamble took shape on 26 December 1978, as 182 vehicles turned up in the

Place du Trocadéro for a 10,000-kilometre journey into the unknown, destination Dakar. The encounter between two worlds sought by the event's founder unfolded on the African continent. Among the 74 trail-blazers who made it to the Senegalese capital, Cyril Neveu, at the handlebars of a Yamaha 500 XT, wrote the opening entry on the honours list of the greatest rally in the world.

In 1983 The first visit to the Tenere desert was as astounding as it was terrifying. The competitors found themselves plunged into an interminable sandstorm which caused no less than 40 drivers to lose their bearings. Those who strayed furthest had to spend as much as four days getting back on course. The legend of the Dakar was underway.

1986 was a black year, Thierry Sabine, French singer Daniel Balavoine, journalist Nathaly Odent, pilot François Xavier-Bagnoud and radio technician Jean-Paul Le Fur all met their deaths in a helicopter accident. Thierry Sabine's ashes were scattered in the desert and his father Gilbert, aided by Patrick Verdoy, took over the helm. The race went on but no one's heart was really in it.

In 1992 was a special edition, a crossing of the African continent, from the north to the southernmost tip, was the task facing the competitors. The Paris - Cape rally comprised 22 stages and passed through 10 countries on a route stretching 12,427 km! Hubert Auriol won with navigator Philippe Monnet to become the first driver to claim victory in both the bike and car categories.

In 2000 To mark the new millennium, the Dakar opted for a route with an eternal flavor: the finish

was at the foot of the Gizeh Pyramids, where the pharaohs of Ancient Egypt lie. Jean-Louis Schlesser, who remains the only person to win the Dakar on a buggy, retained his title, as did Richard Sainct in the bike category. A year later in 2001 Jutta Kleinschmidt, first seen in the Dakar thirteen years earlier on a bike, had already become the first female stage winner in 1998 in a Schlesser buggy. This year, she became the first woman to win the overall event, this time at the wheel of a Mitsubishi.

In 2008 After the murder of four French citizens and three Mauritanian soldiers in the previous days before the start and answering the strong recommendation of the French Ministry for Foreign affairs not to go to Mauritania, the 2008 edition of the rally was cancelled. Terrorist acts identified by the French authorities threatened the rally directly. On the eve of the start, Etienne Lavigne was forced to announce the cancellation of the 2008 edition. From then the rally will shipped to another continent Latin America where the competition is held since 2009 from Paris-Dakar it will be simply named the “Dakar”.

This year this race for travelers , it is readying itself to discover a 27th country, at the end of a fourth South American adventure that will take the riders and drivers to Lima, the capital of Peru, after having returned to the Argentinean and Chilean landscapes. The crossing of the continent, from the Atlantic to the Pacific appeals massively to rally-raid lovers who come to enjoy the thrills of the competition and wide open spaces. This year, 465 vehicles are expected at Mar del Plata for the start of the race, an increase of almost 15 % in comparison to the 2011 edition.

Sand and dunes will be on the menu in the three host countries of the Dakar 2012. However,

between the ones in Fiambala leading up to the crossing of the Andes Mountains, the amazingly large ones of the Atacama Desert, or those in Peru which stretch out in long rows, their variation and the reoccurrence of difficulty they provide along the route means it is a fool's game to try and predict just how the race will unfold. Furthermore, the numbers in the field have become denser, making predictions more and more random, starting in the two-wheeled category. Whilst Marc Coma and Cyril Despres are neck and neck with three victories each, it is by no means a sure thing that one of them will take a lead this year on the rally's roll of honor. Among the serious rivals who can already boast podium finishes are Helder Rodrigues and David Casteu riding for Yamaha, as well as Francisco Lopez (Aprilia) or Pal-Anders Ullevalseter (KTM). However, in light of their promising performances,  Portugal's Paulo Gonçalves (Husqvarna) or even American Quinn Cody, best “rookie” in 2011 (9th, Honda) can also be granted the rank of pretender. What's more, all eyes will probably also be on a handful of first-class newcomers, such as Brazilian Felipe Zanol (2nd behind Despres in the Sertoes International Rally), two times endurance world champion Johnny Aubert, or four times Bol d'Or winner Matt Lagrive.


The reshuffling of cards expected in the car category could also give rise to an intense battle. It will already be raging within the ranks of the X-Raid team, which will be racing five Minis, driven by two former rally winners, Stephane Peterhansel and Nani Roma (who triumphed on a bike), as well as the rising start of the discipline Krzysztof Holowczyc, victorious this summer on the Silk Way Rally. But the new context could also allow Robby Gordon to make a mark again, after a podium finish in 2009 behind the wheel of his Hummer. This is also a goal that Giniel De Villiers can legitimately hold: the winner of the first South American Dakar will be driving a Toyota Pick-up designed by Overdrive that could make a triumphant debut in the event. The state of the competition is also whetting the appetite of outsiders such as Christian Lavieille for Dessoude, Mathias Kahle behind the wheel of an SMG buggy, or the comeback kid Carlos Sousa, enlisted by Chinese constructor Great Wall.

In the quad category, the Patronelli brothers seem obliged to provide an excellent performance. The Argentine spectators, won over by the family saga that has witnessed the victories of Marcos in 2010, then Alejandro in 2011, will only content themselves with the best. However, on the tracks the duo will have to deal with Czech rider Josef Machacek, who picked up the last of his five titles in 2009, as well as a Polish onslaught that has been gathering strength for the last few years in the form of Rafal Sonik and Lukasz Laskawiec.

2012 will unavoidably be a turning point for the Kamaz team, since its star Chagin has left the cab to take on a role in managing the team. An air of youthfulness has been given to the team with Eduard Nikolaev and Ayrat Mardeev, son of Ilgizar, who both have the talent and machines capable of prolonging the Russian domination. That said, their failure at home in July in the SWR, along with the victory of Ales Loprais, allows the Czech driver to nourish hopes of triumph. The De Rooy team also has high hopes, with the return to the tracks of Gerard, but also the presence of Hans Stacey, the last driver to have beaten Kamaz on the Dakar, in 2007. Furthermore, the Veka team does not intend to be a mere spectator of this struggle, with Frantz Echter ready to get stuck in.

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