The 2014 Dakar Rally celebrates its 35 running year and it is held in South America for the 6th time. The route starts in Rosario, Argentina and finishes in Valparaiso, Chile on January 18. Peru is no longer part of the route and has been replaced by Bolivia. In total the race consists of 13 stages and will be a total of 8Â 500 kilometres.
The race consists of about 450 vehicles divided into four categories: motorcycles, cars, trucks and quad bikes. The race begins in Argentina with all four classes driving the same narrow route. This will make it difficult for the drivers to pass each other but that soon passes. After the initial 800 km the road will even out and when the drivers are faced with the desert they can start overtaking one another. By the time they reach the mountains they will separate ways and the road up the mountain will take the teams to about 4Â 300 km above sea level. The longest stage of the race follows two days later with the drivers and riders reuniting for a 911 kilometre hot and sandy stretch. Not only will this challenge the drivers but the engines and the mechanics will be taken to their limits. After that experience the biggest hurdle will be wildlife that is left to roam as the drivers have a chance of colliding with the cattle.
After a rest day the cars will be testing their speed as they cross the vast salt flats and navigation and the high altitude will prove to be a very dangerous combination. As the drivers reach Chile they will be faced with the vast sand dunes as they reach the coast. Another challenge awaits the drivers in the form of fesh-fesh. This is sand that has been eroded into dust and acts just like quicksand without the water. As is that isnâ€™t bad enough this leg ends with a drop in altitude of about 1000 km in 3 kilometres. Thatâ€™s an average decent of 30 percent and has been compared to a level black ski slope. After the drop the drivers cross more fesh-fesh, mine tracks, rivers and a final stretch through the Copiapo Desert in Chile. The entire race will take 13 days and not all teams will make it past the finish line.
What makes this rally unique is the fact that for the first time in the history of the Dakar, Bolivia will host a marathon stage aimed only on the motorcycle riders. The marathon will take place on the Salarde Uyuni salt flats which happen to be the worldâ€™s largest salt flats. The marathon means that the riders will be completely alone and the only way they can get help is if it comes from other riders that happen to pass them.
Team Mini has won the last two years in a row and is still a favourite to win in 2014. The Mini Countryman has been modified by the performance enhancing team X-Raid of Trebur that is located in Germany. Although the Mini is still a favourite the competition has increased dramatically over the last year and teams like Toyota and Hummer are also very high on the possible winner list. What do you think about the route and what team is your favourite?