Dakar motorsport rally: What you need to know in advanced

40 things you need to know about the Dakar Rally

Words: Werner Jessner
Photo: REUTERS/Jacky Naegelen

The Dakar Rally is perhaps the toughest, and most dangerous, motorsport event in the world. Part 2: 10 things you need to know before you line up for the start

The 39th outing gets underway on January 2 in Asunción, Paraguay. Here’s what you need to know in advance:

  1. What do I need to line up for the start of the Dakar?
  2. Do I need a driving licence?
  3. Is this a total boys’ club?
  4. How much money will I need?
  5. How many hours a day will I be on the road? 
  6. Does everyone start together?
  7. What do I get if I win the Dakar?
  8. When am I going to win?
  9. What does a winning car look like?
  10. How can I keep track of the rally?
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1. What do I need to line up for the start of the Dakar?

You need a motorsport licence. And to get the class needed for Dakar you need to prove your physical and mental abilities. Then you work your way up to the Dakar by taking part in smaller events, like the one in Morocco. Dakar rookies also need to submit a detailed application. Only then do the organisers decide whether you’re up to the task. There’s also one other thing that will help you not only start your first Dakar, but also finish it – humility… and maybe a 10 per cent cushion of ability.

© youtube // dakar

2. Do I need a driving licence?

Yes, because between the special stages you have to drive on public roads in regular traffic.

3. Is this a total boys’ club?

Not at all. Germany’s Jutta Kleinschmidt won it in 2001, and that was up against an otherwise all male line-up. Spain’s Laia Sanz came ninth in the motorcycle class in 2015. 

Germany’s Jutta Kleinschmidt

Laia Sanz (Spain) came ninth in 2015

© Getty Images

4. How much money will I need?

How much have you got? The poorest competitors go it alone in the motorbike category. But then you have to do everything yourself. So you’re looking at:

  • €24,000: A KTM Adventure bike with a ‘ready-to-race’ Dakar package 
  • €14,800: Starter’s fee
  • €10,000: Spare parts 
  • €3,000: Rider’s equipment
  • €2,000: Flights
  • €1,000: Licence and attestation 
  • €1,000: Visa, small gifts, internet access, etc 

Alternatively, sign up with a KTM satellite team for €90,000. That gets you your own mechanic, too. Accompanying staff generally cost extra. The fees are staggered according to when you register, starting at €9,000 per assistant. And as they’re coming along for the ride, you have to register every support car, too. A car will set you back €2,500, and a motorhome costs €6,000.

Trace your way! ¡Traza tu camino! ➡️➡️➡️➡️ 😀#dakar2016

A post shared by Dakar (@dakarrally) on

5. How many hours a day will I be on the road? 

Bear in mind that you’ll have to take down your tent at 4am, leave the bivouac at five, following a quick breakfast, then do 300km in regular traffic, then another 300 with your foot to the floor, and then 200 more in regular traffic again to get to the next bivouac. Your Dakar job is more five-to-nine than it is nine-to-five.

Dakar Rally: Motorbike at night

Joan Barreda Bort (Spain) in action during the Dakar 2016

© Frederic Le Floc‘h/DPPI

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6. Does everyone start together?

No. The bikes and quads start ahead of the cars with the trucks setting off last. It’s exciting when the quick cars come up against the slowest bikes and the former can no longer see and the latter can no longer be seen. The order within the groups is interesting, too, because the quickest participant from the day before gets things underway and has to set the pace. A lot of participants proceed tactically and deliberately fall off the pace some days.

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7. What do I get if I win the Dakar?

Honour and glory, and a nice trophy, because with just €58,000 prize money on offer for top spot, you’re not likely to be in this for the cash. If you win in your category, you get €5,000. But if you exploit your victory well, you’ll never go hungry.

Our 491 competitors surely have their eyes on the prize. 👀🏆 #Dakar2017

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8. When am I going to win?

If you’re a world-class athlete, no earlier than your third outing. See how it works, get good at it, win. Otherwise, never.

Peugeot 3008 DKR

The Peugeot 3008 DKR has great potential to be a winning car

© Flavien Duhamel

9. What does a winning car look like?

Like the Peugeot 3008 DKR, a marked improvement on the winning 2008 DKR from last year. The regulations favour rear-wheel drive, so Peugeot have dispensed with all-wheel drive. Air to the twin-turbo diesel engine is restricted, but it still generates 340hp and can reach speeds of 200kph. At 46cm, the 3008 DKR’s springs are so big that in theory it could drive over an armchair and the drivers wouldn’t feel it. It takes seconds to get the spare wheels out in case of a breakdown, and the car is lighter and better-balanced than in 2016. It all looks good for a successful title defence.

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The Dakar Rally the most dangerous motorsport event in the world. We answer 40 questions you might ask yourself. Part 4: 10 things you need to know about sleep, supply and support

10. How can I keep track of the rally?

Red Bull TV and redbull.com will bring you spectacular footage…
LIVE from January 2-14:

SÉBASTIEN LOEB – OFF ROADS 
On demand

Five months on Loeb’s heels. What gives the nine-time World Rally Champion the motivation to tackle the Dakar adventure once again? 

PAYING THE PRICE
Premiere: December 20
Toby Price dominated the 2016 Dakar and won it convincingly. The secret of the Australian rider’s success? Blood, sweat and tears.

THE KAMAZ STORY
Premiere: December 20

Russian team Kamaz have put together a whole new race truck for 2017. A documentary crew followed its progress.

MATTHIAS WALKNER 
Premiere: December 27

Austrian motorcyclist Walkner was severely injured in a crash at the 2016 Dakar, but didn’t give up. Red Bull TV shows his way back.

Read more
01 2017 The Red Bulletin

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