2017 Dakar: A taste of the extreme

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This morning, Dakar organisers revealed the route details and the sporting programme of the 2017 edition, which will be run this coming January 2-14 in Paraguay, Bolivia and Argentina. Over nearly 9000kms of roads, tracks and dunes, the adventure will also be made complex with a stay at high-altitude for one week… 

“This year, the Dakar will visit its 29th country and Paraguay awaits us for ‘Una Fiesta Fenomenal’ “, said an enthusiastic Etienne Lavigne in opening the presentation conference for the 2017 Dakar, while his Sporting Director Marc Coma promised all the adventurers “the toughest edition in the history of South American rally-raiding”.

And it is indeed a Dakar of contrasts that is looming on the horizon in January. The competitors will set off from Asunción under a tropical climate and heat in excess of 40° Celsius, then confront negative temperatures a few days later… for those who press on during the night on the Bolivian Altiplano. The thermal amplitude will be mainly the consequence of the rise in altitude that the Dakar will experience, leaving from sea level to reach nearly 5,000 metres.

After several incursions near Uyuni since 2014, now the competitors are being offered a proper exploration of Bolivia. Including the rest day at La Paz, the riders and crews will stay in the high mountains for a full week. Physical and mechanical management to the atmospheric changes will be among the parameters to take into account. But the weeding out process will be based on, above all else, the essentials to rally-raid success: navigation aptitude, to which more attention should be paid with the modifications made to the guidance system, consistency, put to the test with seven special stages of more than 400kms, dune crossing and driving in sand, especially on the sections of the route still unknown to rally-raid regulars or during the all-important “Super Belen” stage, three days from the finish line in Buenos Aires. 

b_600_0_16777215_00_images_00-DAKAR_2017_vooraf_DKR17_lengte_specials.jpgThe programme of revelry announced by the organisers plunges the contenders for the various titles into a new phase of preparation. In the bike category, Toby Price on his KTM is the favourite, but newcomers from last year have continued to impress during the season, whether it is Kevin Benavides (Honda) or Adrien van Beveren (Yamaha). In the car category, the Peugeot Dream Team has remained intact, but to go up against Peterhansel, Loeb, Sainz and Despres, Toyota was particularly busy on the transfer market. In addition to Giniel de Villiers, the Hilux Pickups will be driven by two-time winner Nasser Al Attiyah (2011 and 2015) and by 2014 Dakar champion, Joan “Nani” Roma. The Minis from Team X-Raid will try to add a fifth trophy to their collection case with Mikko Hirvonen, 4th on his debut in 2016, but they will also have “Orly” Terranova as well as Yazeed Al Rahji, while American superstar Bryce Menzies will look to make a sensational breakthrough into the world of rally-raid. And in the truck category, Gerard De Rooy will once again have his Argentinean team-mate Fernando Villagra, who joined him on the podium last January, but Kamaz will try to return to their winning ways with Ayrat Mardeev and Eduard Nikolaev. Ales Loprais could create a surprise with a Czech team and Tatra that allowed his uncle Karel to win six times.