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Dakar 2024: ready to kick off in the dunes

Article by Ginevra Stanghellini. English translation by Giulianna Faliero

In a few days the world’s most famous rally competition, the Dakar, will begin. One of the most exciting races in motorsport, a bit like LeMans for endurance race fans or the Monza Grand Prix for the Tifosi.

Five thousand kilometres across dunes and deserts, stages with completely new routes that will lead to the discovery of the Saudi territory.

Dakar, Al-Alula, 2023
Dakar, Al-Alula, 2023, Instagram

How did the Dakar start?

The rally was conceived in 1976 by Thierry Sabine, a French racing driver, who, after getting lost in the Libyan desert during the Abidjan-Nice rally, created a rally that would cover the same route but in the opposite direction. Thus the Dakar was born, although the first name was Oasis, the name of the sponsor.

Is it always the same race?

Yes, names and routes might change, but the level ofthe race is always the same. It was originally known as Paris-Dakar because, in the editions between 1979 and 1991 and for a further five editions between 1993 and 2001: the historic rally began in Paris and moved on to the African continent. Crossing the Sahara desert, the finish was set in Dakar, the capital of Senegal. The 2008 edition was cancelled due to possible terrorist attacks. Later, the races between 2009 and 2019 got started in South America, in particular between Argentina and Chile. In 2019, Peru hosted the entire edition of the race. From 2020, however, Saudi Arabia became the host nation.

2024 edition: the route

1 prologue followed by 12 stages varying between 600 and 800 kilometres per day, for a total of 14 days of racing, from Al-‘Ula to Yanbu, crossing the whole of Saudi Arabia for the fifth consecutive year. The start and the bivouac will be near the majestic Nabataean temples, which have withstood time and harsh conditions for centuries, just as the 778 racers competing in the eight categories will have to do: Motorbike, Quad, Car, Challenger, SSV, Truck, M1000 and Classic. The great novelty of this edition is the 48-hour Superstage time trial, which will force participants to refresh themselves and rest in one of the eight bivouacs along the route.

The title favourites

There are many categories in the race and many favourites. In the motorbike category, Kevin Benavides is looking for his third success. Still there are many contenders like Seb Sunderland, Toby Price, Skyler Howes and Daniel Sanders, who said: “I hope that luck will assist me in the Dakar 2024“.

However, the car racing is looking promising! The challenge is between five-time winner Nasser Al-Attiyah and Sébastien Loeb, who is looking for his first success. Not to be underestimated are Carlos Sainz and veteran Stéphane Peterhansel, winner of no fewer than 14 editions, six in motorbikes and eight in cars.

Pre-start statements

In the press conference ahead of the start, the protagonists set out their objectives and hopes for this edition. Peterhansel’s words: “The Dakar is the only competition in the world where you have a mix of speed and motorsport combined with nature and breathtaking scenery, which is why I think it is the best race there is.”

Sainz wanted to review the development of the last few years, saying: “After the last race, we saw where we could improve the car. The more I learned about the project, the more I realised how brave Audi has been. There are several things that can go wrong, but this can be a winning car.Loeb and Al Attiyah, team-mates, showed great harmony and sportsmanship, with the former seeing in the latter the right experience to attempt to win the race.

For what concerns the motorbike category, Sam Sunderland said: “There is a lot of competition in the category this year and it is really exciting! It will make the racing even more interesting to have new faces to challenge.

Where can you watch the Dakar?

All fans can follow the race on live TV on DAZN, Eurosport or Discovery+. You should also follow the Dakar social media platforms, especially Instagram, for videos and updates.

All that is left to do now is enjoy the show and see who will be the first to cross the finish line on the Red Sea. Because you know what it takes: experience, talent and a bit of luck, but above all, the Dakar is a challenge like no other, in the words of Carlos Sainz.

Giulianna Faliero

I've always been passionate about motorsport and Mult1formula allows me to share this passion of mine. Here I write mostly about Formula 2 and Formula 3 for both our Italian and international articles.

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