When it comes to motorsport you don’t get much more dangerous than the Dakar Rally. Competing at full throttle for a fortnight over stunning yet treacherous terrain can take its toll on competitors and vehicles alike. There are always big accidents and on (thankfully rare) occasions there are even fatalities, and yet despite the dangers the Dakar is never short of competitors. For many, the challenge of the event is too hard to resist and this year was no exception – over 576 vehicles lined up at the start line, spread across the four classes of motorbike, quad bike, car and truck.
The Dakar Rally 2012 took competitors on a 9,000km route from the west coast of South America to the east coast. Starting in Argentina the competitors had to cross the Andes, then work their way through Chile into Peru to eventually arrive at the finishing line in Lima, Peru’s capital. Starting on 1st January, the competitors finally arrived in Lima on 15th January.
Of all of the classes taking part it’s the bike riders that I admire the most. The only thing protecting them from serious injury as they hurtle across the landscape is a bit of body armour and their quick reactions. This imminent danger doesn’t phase them and they still push on at terrifying speed, tested to the limits of both their physical and mental capabilities.
This year it was French rider Cyril Despres who took victory in the motorcycle class, crossing the line on his Team Red Bull 450cc KTM ahead of last year’s winner Marc Coma. Coma was hoping to get back-to-back wins but broke his gearbox after a difficult jump on the final stage, handing victory to Despres and gifting the Frenchman his fourth Dakar title.
In the car class the victory went to another Frenchman, Stephane Peterhanse, driving his X-Raid Mini to the finish. This will come as a relief to Stephane who has suffered from some bad results since the Dakar moved from its home continent of Africa to South America. Argentine rider Alejandro Patronelli took victory on his Yamaha quadbike, while the big truck category was won by Dutch driver Gerard De Rooy in an Iveco.
Sadly TV coverage of the Dakar isn’t available to all, but thanks to the likes of Red Bull there is plenty to see on the internet. They have been posting daily reports from their teams, including Cyril Despres’ progress, with regular video and pictures to keep viewers enthralled. Even though the event has finished it’s definitely worth visiting the site and checking out the video footage from the two weeks, as well as interviews with some of the competitors.
Not familiar with the Dakar? Watch the video below to get an idea of why this is one of the most gruelling motorsport events in the world.