All systems go for 6 January
Dakar 2018 starts a little later than usual on Saturday 6 January, but it’s set to be an absolute cracker as always. In association with TreasuryOne, Motorsport Media will once again report daily on the action from South America starting 5 January.
Looking ahead, probably the most important Dakar for Toyota to win before Peugeot quits, the SA-built bakkies have one more chance to beat the all-conquering French machines and prevent a 3008 hat trick on their Dakar swansong, but never ignore the Minis. And can anyone beat KTM on two wheels?
Toyota’s official three-car Gazoo team sees SA hero Giniel de Villiers and Nasser Al Attiyah joined by Dutch driver Bernhard ten Brinke, out to tackle Peugeot quartet Stephane Peterhansel, Seb Loeb, Carlos Sainz and Cyril Despres and the Minis of Nani Roma, Mikko Hirvonen and Orlando Terranova, one being a new buggy.
Other South African interest includes TreasuryOne Amarok privateer Hennie de Klerk, along with a fleet of SA-built Hiluxes, Rangers and Renault Dusters, while progress of the resurgent Borgward brand’s first Dakar will also be followed with interest.
On the bike front, KTM is out to continue its seemingly never-ending winning streak with a powerful orange team headed by 2017 winner Sam Sunderland, Toby Price, Matthias Walkner and Gerard Farres-Guell.
But with the likes of Honda quartet Juan Barreda, Ricky Brabec, Paulo Goncalves and Michel Metge, Adrien van Beveren, Franco Mani and Marquis Xavier de Soultrait on Yamahas, Husqvarna’s Pablo Quintanilla and Juan Pedredo Garcia’s Sherco, the dominant men in orange will have some work to do.
There are several South African riders chasing the Dakar dream on two wheels too – David Thomas will be back chasing a finish on his Husqvarna, while Willem du Toit, Wessel Bosman (riding under the Lesotho flag), Donovan van de Langenberg and Gerry van der Byl will race KTMs.
Yamaha men Sergei Kariakin, Ignacio Casale, Rafal Sonik and Josef Macacek will fight for quad honours, while the Dakar trucks will once again thrill with the likes of Kamaz trio Eduard Nikolaev, Dimitry Sotnikov and Airat Mardeev taking on Federico Villagra’s Iveco, Aleksandr Vasilevsk’s MAZ, Ales Loprais and Martin Kolomys’ Tatra and Martin van den Brink in a Renault.
A SMARTER, TOUGHER ROUTE
The 40th Dakar will be the tenth to be raced in South America. Starting on Peru’s Pacific coast dunes, the 2018 race heads through Bolivia to Argentina and features a reinvented route that lessens the burden on service crews but retains that classic Dakar challenge to the competitors. Starting in Lima Saturday 6 January, Stage 1 is a 272km navigation exercise to Pisco before a 267km loop around Pisco and a 295km race to San Juan de Marcona on Monday. Tuesday sees another 330km loop around San Juan de Marcona, starting off the beach, 4 cars and 15 bikes at a time, before crews head for Arequipa on Wednesday on a 265km stage over 930km overall. Thursday sees 313km fast racing into the mountains to La Paz for the rest day, Friday 12 January. It’s back to racing with Saturday’s 429km stage to Uyuni and then a 498km run across a 3.5km altitude dune field into the second week to Tupizia on Sunday, 242km to Salta Monday, a similar trip over the sandy plains to Belen on Tuesday and on to Chicheleto on Wednesday. The survivors then face a 522km chase to San Juan before Friday’s sting in Dakar ‘18’s tail – a 423km run through dunes, fesh-fesh and tight tracks to Cordoba, before a short ceremonial loop around Cordoba to the finish.