We all know Rallying is a real test of a driver’s skill and mechanical reliability. But one event takes this to the extreme. The Dakar Rally pits man and machine against some of the toughest terrain on the planet as competitors from all corners of the globe race bikes, cars and trucks across South America, taking in Argentina, Chile and Peru. Covering more than 9000km over two weeks, you need more than just stamina, determination, reliability and attrition to get anywhere near the podium. Just finishing is a real feat in itself as the Dakar stakes its claim as the most demanding motorsport event in the world.
The sad loss of Argentinean rider Jorge Martinez Boero on the first stage of the rally had overshadowed the early stages of the 2012 event somewhat. The 38 year old had suffered a heart attack whilst competing, underlining the grueling nature of the Dakar. This year’s rally was set to be no easier than usual with all competitors having to push to the limit and sometimes over it to be in with a chance of glory.
The soaring temperatures, extreme conditions and challenging terrain all took its toll on Riders and Drivers alike as they battled through each stage for the two week competition. However, Red Bull rider Cyril Despres conquered all and used all his experience to take his fourth title beating fellow Red Bull riders Marc Coma and Helder Rodrigues who finished second and third respectively. Despres underlined the grueling nature of the Dakar by telling the media afterwards ‘The 2012 Dakar is without a shadow of a doubt the toughest Dakar I have ever raced in. It was very demanding physically but also such an intense psychological battle. Every day, I had to rise to the challenge and that takes its toll on the mind. It’s definitely a marathon and not a sprint because even when you do a good job one day, you have to go out there and repeat it tomorrow and the next day for two tough weeks.’
Stephane Peterhansel took the honours in the car category ahead of Joan Roma, both competing in Mini’s, whilst 2009 winner, South African Giniel De Villiers, bought the reliable Toyota Hilux home in third place in its first Dakar event. Proving that it is not just driver ability and stamina that is needed in such event but machine reliability, De Villiers stated that the Hilux ran without any technical problems or issues throughout the race and praised his mechanics for all their hard work. 'Our trump card was the reliability of the Toyota Hilux’ he said.
For more news and features on this year’s Dakar Rally, Including video’s, photos and competitor blogs from Cyril Despres, Marc Coma and Giniel De Villiers, visit Red Bull’s Dakar 2012 site here.
A lot of people think competing in motorsport is pretty easy. The Dakar proves it isn’t.