12 days of the Dakar race
We’re still in the 12 days of Christmas but what of the 12 stages of Dakar?
Arguably motorsport’s most arduous course gets under way on January 2 in Asuncion, the capital of Paraguay, stage one’s 454 kilometres a mere dent in the marathon course that lies await.
Ahead of the illustrious race, we dissect the 12 stages over 13 days and the overall race in numbers…
1 – Bib No.1 will be adorned by Australian Toby Price, who last year became the first Australian to win the Dakar as he proved victorious in the motorbike category. He won five stages in all, was 40 minutes clear of his closest rival and is the only person to win the event on only his second attempt.
2 – Nasser al-Attiyah won two stages last year in the Dakar car category, one more than the number of medals he has won at the Summer Olympics, for which he has a shooting bronze from London. But sticking to twos, it is the number of times he has won Dakar and also his position in last year’s race come the finish.
3 – This year’s event will pass through a total of three countries in South America: Paraguay, where it starts, Bolivia and Argentina, where it reaches its climax.
4 – Jutta Kleinschmidt was the first and still only female winner of the Dakar proving victorious on four wheels in the car category in 2001. But her first forays along the route were on two wheels rather than four, making her debut in 1988 on a BMW motorcycle before switching to a car in 1994.
5 – Stage five of this year’s race is in the heart of the Bolivia Altiplano where the Andes are at their wildest. Outside Tibet, it is the most extensive high plateau on earth in which two hefty sand dune sections will provide an ultimate test for those still in the race.
6 – Last year, there were 18 Red Bull entries, or Desert Wings, who took to the start line. Come the race finish some two weeks later, six of that number were among the podium finishers.
7 – The entourage that now supports the Dakar is absolutely monstrous. The race is followed and filmed from above by a total of seven helicopters but that is not the only race back-up. In addition, there is a field hospital, an air ambulance and 60 nursing staff on hand in case of any emergencies.
8 – The 2016 running of the Dakar was the eighth successive year in which the rally was run in South America, the race moving there in 2009 because of safety fears in parts of Africa. Traditionally, its route – from its inception in 1979 – had been from Paris to Dakar although the French capital last hosted the depart in 2001.
9 – There are no shortage of motorsport royalty in the starting line-up for this year. Perhaps most notable among them is Sebastien Loeb, who is making his second entry in the race. Loeb is best known for his years in the World Rally Championship in which he won nine titles. He also finished ninth overall last year on his Dakar debut.
10 – The tightest ever margin of victory on the Dakar was just two minutes and 12 seconds back in 2010. That year, Carlos Sainz edged out al-Attiyah in a nail biting finale to a gripping race-long contest.
11 – Red Bull athletes enjoyed a stunning Dakar in 2016. They won 11 out of 13 stages and 91% of the time they were on the podium.
12 – Stephane Peterhansel won the car event last year and boasts an astonishing 12 overall Dakar victories. He was once the dominant force in the motorbike class in which he won six times before switching to cars and emulating that number of wins.