337 vehicles take the start in a more than promising Dakar 2018
“In Africa at the end of the 1970’s or in South America at the start of the 21st century, the riders and drivers taking part in the Dakar set off with the same desire to meet a challenge and the same thirst for discovery,” reminded Etienne Lavigne, the rally director, at the beginning of the presentation of the 40th edition. For this exceptional vintage, a special programme has been concocted to satisfy the expectations of competitors looking forward to reacquainting themselves with the Peruvian desert, whose delights they already tasted in 2012 and 2013. Indeed, they will be getting to grips with these majestic dunes straight away, stretching over five stages.
Sporting director Marc Coma assured the competitors that the programme of this first sequence will take in “all the types of sand in Peru”. Whilst these initial dune crossings will lead to an initial cull among the competitors, the change in register will also be difficult to handle when the rally enters Bolivia, where coping with the weather and atmospheric conditions will require the adventurers to display qualities of extreme endurance. Above all, the five times winner of the event has designed the rally to ramp up the stakes as it progresses, with the decisive stages in the last third of the race, on Argentine territory: “The Super Fiambalá stage (Belén-Chilecito), which will also be the second part of the marathon stage for the bikes and quads, could be the high point of the race if it is as hot as it usually is there,” points out Coma.
The list of participants published to coincide with the presentation includes 337 vehicles, all aiming to reach Córdoba, the capital of Argentine motorsport. Among them, a handful in each category will be battling for the title. This will naturally be the case for Stéphane Peterhansel, who has won 13 times since the start of his career… thirty years ago! “Mister Dakar”, the leader for the last time of a Peugeot armada that hogged the places on the podium last year with Sébastien Loeb and Cyril Despres, will not only have to deal with competition from his team-mates.
The fleet of Toyota Hiluxes will be led by Nasser Al Attiyah, who remains unbeaten this season since withdrawing from the toughest rally-raid in the world on the 3rd stage last January. As for Team X-Raid, “Nani” Roma, the winner in 2014, will be making his comeback as the team’s spearhead, with team-mates ready to make trouble for their rivals such as Mikko Hirvonen or newcomer Bryce Menzies, all behind the wheels of their brand new Minis.
In the bike race, nobody has really bossed the category since Cyril Despres and then Marc Coma definitively climbed off their bikes. KTM has continued to triumph thanks to Toby Price (in 2016) and Sam Sunderland (in 2017) and now the Austrian firm can also count on Matthias Walkner or Antoine Meo. Yamaha also have a new generation coming to the forefront with Adrian van Beveren, Franco Caimi and Xavier de Soultrait as leaders, whilst Honda will be relying on the experience of Paulo Gonçalves and Joan Barreda as well as on the youth of Kevin Benavides or Ricky Brabec..
“Original by Motul”: 28 biker-mechanics to take starter’s orders
In the spirit of the Dakar pioneers, some of the bikers and quad riders choose to tackle the route by pushing the concept of adventure and surpassing themselves to the extreme. Without an assistance team, they alone will be ensuring their machines remain in racing condition, even if they end up losing hours of sleep in order to do so. The principal Dakar partner Motul has decided to support these brave adventurers, formerly called “trunk riders”, by making products and equipment available to them at the bivouacs. This category has witnessed an upsurge this year, with 28 riders registered (as opposed to 19 in 2017), including Olivier Pain (3rd in 2014) who will be fighting with Jürgen Van den Goorbergh or Lyndon Poskitt to claim triumph among the “daredevils”.
The full list of participants can be found HERE