Formerly known as the Paris-Dakar Rally, it is one of the toughest rallies, or rather rally raid in the world because of the rough terrain, which necessitates that vehicles be proper off-road vehicles.
The rally began in 1978 with the events starting in Paris to finish in the capital city of Senegal, Dakar. The event relocated to Argentina in 2009 amidst fears of terrorist attacks.
Despite the dangers associated with the rally, more and more people – both amateurs and professionals riders and drivers – take part in the rally. A veteran road racer taking part for the first time in the Dakar, which started yesterday said, “I like to do things that others will not try. It eats at me, the desire to do something hard. It keeps me awake at night, always looking to do something that others said is hard or I cannot do.”
As for the safety element of the race, the manager of the race, Xavier Gavory, assures that safety is their main concern though it is very difficult to guarantee. Indeed, since the race started in 1978, 69 people have lost their lives, some through injuries like those Australian rider Andy Caldecott suffered. At other times, it is the desert conditions that have proved unbearable. The Argentinian racer Jorge Martinez Boero died of a heart attack while the polish rider Michael Hernik succumbed to heatstroke during the 2015 race.
It isn’t just competitors who have lost their lives. Forty one non-competitors have lost their lives since the now-named Dakar started. During Saturday’s prologue, 10 people got injured of which 5 are said to be in a serious condition. The injuries occurred after the car driven by Chinese driver Guo Meiling veered off course and plunged into the spectators lining the road.
Still, the Dakar continues to attract competitors, and that is in no small part due to the $50,000 prize money.
“If a rider wins Dakar, he is almost guaranteed to be signed by a manufacturer,” Cody, the veteran rider taking part in his first Dakar, says.
Despite the grueling training regimes and and varying completion rates, it’s no wonder that many riders and drivers are drawn to the race each year. And it doesn’t show any sign of coming to an end anytime soon.