The 40th Dakar Rally kicked off on 6 January. Formerly known as the Paris Dakar after its historic start and finish locations, the endurance race is divided into 14 stages and will take entrants 5500 miles through South America, starting in Lima, Peru before crossing into Bolivia and finishing up in Cordoba, Argentina.
Consistent with the rally raid competition format, the Dakar is a multi-day race event made up of long off-road stages. The vehicles participating include cars, trucks, bikes and quad bikes that can be run by manufacturer works teams, private individuals or standalone motorsport outfits. Of course, we’ll be focusing on the car-side of things. Keep an eye on this page for live Dakar updates and results from each day of the Dakar race.
Day 6 – Arequipa – La Paz
The Dakar Rally crossed from Peru into Bolivia in the latter half of the sixth day’s special stage. With that the terrain changed from sandy dunes to mountain tracks, rewarding outright speed rather than navigational precision. Competitors ended the day in Bolivia’s governmental capital, La Paz, with a rest day to follow.
Team Total Peugeot took a one-two through Sainz and Peterhansel, with Toyota Gazoo Racing SA’s Al-Attiyah, De Villiers and Ten Brinke finishing in third, fourth and seventh respectively. Peugeot’s day however was marred by Sebastien Loeb’s decision to retire from the rally following yesterday’s incident.
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The overall standings remain as per the previous day, with the five drivers mentioned above within an hour and a half of each other, 50 minutes ahead of the sixth placed driver. So Peterhansel still leads from Sainz in second, ahead of the Toyota trio with Al-Attiyah sandwiched between Ten Brinke in third and De Villiers in fifth.
Speaking after the stage, former winner, Sainz said, ‘Since the start of we’ve been off-piste in the sand and I don’t express myself best on that sort of terrain. So, today, even if there were a lot of straight lines and it wasn’t very exciting, it’s good to change a little. Five days of sand is too much. There is still a lot of racing left, with stages that are 400 and 500 kilometres long, as well as the marathon stage…’
Day 5 - San Juan De Marcona - Arequipa
Day 5 continued in the sand dunes with a 167-mile special stage. Once this was completed, competitors had a long south-easterly trek to Arequipa, Peru to conclude the day’s driving.
Peterhansel remained a constant in the top places, taking the stage victory by 4 minutes ahead of Toyota Gazoo Racing SA’s Ten Brinke in 2nd and De Villiers in 3rd. Sainz and Al-Attiyah were the best of the rest in 4th and 5th respectively. Despres could only manage 9th following his DNF the previous day.
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Sebastien Loeb’s luck turned following his victory yesterday, as he retired from the stage after getting stuck in the dunes for two hours. His co-driver, Daniel Elena, also suffered an injured tailbone after descending a tall dune.
As a result Loeb, fell towards the bottom of the pile in the overall standings. Sainz continued his steady ascent, finishing the 5th day 2nd, with a 31-minute gap to Peterhansel in 1st. Toyota Gazoo Racing SA’s three-strong line-up of Ten Brinke, Al-Attiyah and De Villiers occupied the next three positions, respectively.
Speaking about the stage, Xavier de Soultrait, who’s competing in the bike class this year said, ‘I'd never seen sand so loose before, it's incredible. Quicksand is no joke. It changes shape, you gradually notice it. The atmosphere is good, we're better in sync and it really helps’.
Day 4 –San Juan De Marcona
Elevation was the theme of the 4th day’s 205-mile long special stage. Starting on a beach in San Juan de Marcona, Peru, competitors raced across sandy flats before climbing to an altitude of 2000m and then returned to the coast to finish in San Juan De Marcona.
Sebastien Loeb claimed his first stage victory of the rally, with Sainz and Peterhansel taking second and third respectively, marking it a good day for most of the Team Total Peugeot entrants. Cyril Despres, however, lost a rear-wheel after hitting a rock, bringing a premature end to his stage.
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Speaking after his win, Loeb commented, ‘today was a good stage. It was very long and really difficult with some complicated dunes. In the end we made the best time and that's what we had to do, so at the moment it’s going well’.
Toyota Gazoo Racing SA couldn’t match Peugeot’s performance, with Ten Brinke the only driver finishing in the top ten. Al-Attiyah – a dune specialist – got stuck in the sand twice, seeing him finish almost an hour behind Loeb in 11th – De Villiers finished 17th.
As for the general standings, Peterhansel remained top with Loeb climbing to second and Sainz up to third. Al-Attiyah dropped down to 4th with Ten Brinke behind, Despres’s DNF left him in 47th place.
For a recap on earlier days head to page 2.
The mix of cars and drivers should ensure the competition will be as fierce as ever with 105 driver and co-driver pairings in the car classes this year. Team Total Peugeot will be fielding a strong driver lineup: thirteen-time Dakar winner Stephane Peterhansel, nine-time WRC champion Sebastien Loeb and Carlos Sainz Snr – father of Torro Rosso F1 driver Carlos Sainz – will all pilot their own Peugeot 3008 DKR Maxis.
Many other drivers with plenty of Dakar experience will be returning in their search for further glory. Nasser Al-Attiyah is hoping to complete a hat-trick of victories while driving for Toyota GAZOO Racing SA, and X-Raid’s Nani Roma will want to build on his past success in the Mini John Cooper Works Rally having won in 2014.
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Driving the X-Raid John Cooper Works Buggy, Bryce Menzies, three-time Trophy Truck champion in TORC (The Off-road Championship) has been tipped for success. He had planned to race in the 2017 installment but a crash and the resulting injuries rendered him unfit for entry, but he comes into this year’s race with quiet expectation.
Peugeot 3008 DKR Maxi
The Maxi is an evolution of the 3008 DKR that gifted Peugeot victory in 2017. The biggest change has seen the suspension track widened by 200mm to improve the Maxi’s stability and handling. Mid-mounted within the Maxi’s steel tubular spaceframe chassis is a 3-litre twin-turbo diesel engine producing 335bhp and 590lb ft of torque. It drives the rear-wheels through a six-speed sequential gearbox. With a 400-litre fuel tank, the Maxi should be able to push towards its 124mph top speed for long periods.
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Mini John Cooper Works Rally/Buggy
Two derivatives of Mini will be taking on the Dakar, the all-new Buggy and returning Rally. Both have a BMW straight-six diesel engine producing 335bhp and 590lb ft of torque, but whereas the Rally has a four-wheel drive system, the Buggy is two-wheel drive. Engineering efforts haven’t centered exclusively around the new Buggy though, for this year’s event the Rally has revised suspension and is lighter, too.
The Hilux has reverted to four-wheel drive after a two-wheel drive setup was used in the 2017 car, but the gearbox and naturally aspirated V8 engine have been recycled. The powertrain has, however, been reconfigured to improve performance. The suspension has also been modified to accommodate the change to four-wheel drive, now permitting more suspension travel to improve body control.
Borgward BX7 DKR
The Borgward BX7 gets a petrol engine developing 370bhp and 406lb ft of torque which is deployed through a four-wheel drive system. The presence of twin dampers at each corner should further aid traction by keeping the tyres in contact with the ground more of the time compared to single damper units. The rear brakes, manufactured by Brembo, are water-cooled to maintain optimal operating temperatures and thus maximise braking performance.
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Dakar Rally Histroy
Left in awe by his experience in the Libyan desert during the 1977 Abidjan to Nice rally, Thierry Sabine wanted to return there with a rally of his own. He persuaded 182 competitors to sign up for the inaugural Paris Dakar Rally in 1979 and join him on a 6,000-mile journey, passing through five countries over two continents. As you have probably guessed, the race starting in Paris, France and finished in Dakar, Senegal.
While the eponymous start and finish points were fixed for Paris Dakar rallies up until 1992, the route often changed. From 1993, the start and finish locations began to vary as well, with South Africa, Spain and Portugal all featuring. Africa always constituted the bulk of the route up until 2008. In that year, a terrorist attack in Mauritania forced organisers to cancel the event as the route was planned to pass through that country. Since then, the ‘Dakar Rally’ has been held in South America.
Mitsubishi has become the most successful car manufacturer in Dakar history with twelve wins, double that of Peugeot which has the second most. Stephane Peterhansel is the most decorated Dakar driver and rider in history with thirteen victories. His first win came with Yamaha in 1991, before he went on to claim more titles with Nissan, Mitsubishi, BMW, Mini and Peugeot.