The Dakar Rally is older than the Jubilee Line and Thorpe Park
The Dakar Rally started in December 1978, after founder Thierry Sabine got lost in the Ténéré desert in the Sahara while competing in the 1975 "Cote-Cote" Abidjan (Côte d'Ivoire) to Nice (Côte d'Azure) rally. While others would take that experience and say ‘never again’, Thierry was inspired by the desert and thought it would a fantastic idea to make an off-road rally race that used the desert as the main stage – hence, the Paris-Dakar Rally was born.
The first race ran from 26th December 1978 to 14th January 1979. The Jubilee Line was inaugurated on 1st May 1979 and Thorpe Park opened on 24th May.
The Dakar Rally is enormous and dangerous!
The Rally typically lasts between 10-15 days and covers up to 15,000km in total. For reference, travelling from London to Edinburgh is about 648km, so you’d have to travel that distance 23 times (and some change) to get a taste of how large this race is.
Not only is the Dakar Rally one of the longest motorcycle races in the world it’s also one of the most dangerous; since its inception 76 people (of which 31 were competitors) have been killed, including its founder, Thierry Sabine. In 1986 his helicopter hit a sand dune during a sudden sandstorm, taking four other people with him.
The Dakar Rally has something for everyone
The race has 5 main classes in which you can compete; Motorbikes, Quads, Cars, Trucks, UTVs. There are also newer competing classes such as Classics (cars and trucks made before 2000 or new vehicles made to pre-2000 specs), Light Prototypes (four-wheeled buggies) and ‘Original by Motul’ (cars and bikes competing without any kind of assistance – competitors receive a trunk to store their personal items and tools are only allowed to bring 1 set of wheels, 1 set of tyres, 1 headlight, 1 travel bag, 1 25L backpack and one tent with a sleeping bag and mattress). Talk about tough!
The Dakar Rally does not have a set route
The Rally has been hosted across 3 regions since its inception. The first was Europe across to Africa – Paris, France to Dakar, Senegal. This route was run from 1979 until 2007 when security threats caused the suspension of the race in 2008. From 2009 to 2019 the Rally was moved to South America, where every year the route changed, incorporating tracks across Argentina, Bolivia, Chile and Peru. 2020 saw the Dakar Rally move to Saudi Arabia. While the plan was originally for the Rally to span a few countries alongside Saudi Arabia, the COVID-19 pandemic and global travel restrictions mean that the race has stayed in Saudi Arabia for the moment. The route is open to change over the next couple of years, however!
The Dakar Rally attracts some big names
In 1982 the Dakar Rally made global headlines when Mark Thatcher the son of the then British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher went missing from the race along with his co-driver and their mechanic for six days. They were found 50km off-course unharmed after a large-scale rescue operation was initiated.
Portuguese (and very short-lived Premier League) Football Manager André Villas-Boas has competed in the Dakar Rally. Unfortunately he crashed into a sand dune on the fourth stage and had to withdraw. He plans to return to the race in the future.
Spanish racing champion and father to a Ferrari F1 racing driver, Carlos Sainz Snr has won the Dakar Rally three times! Sainz has won the Dakar Rally across two continents; twice in South America (2010 and 2018) and once in Saudi Arabia (Asia, 2020).
Prince Albert of Monaco and Princess Caroline of Monaco have both entered the race but never finished.
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