Racers ready but is event over 2017 issues?
Dakar 2018 starts this Saturday 6 January with the motorsport world focussed on Peru and the start at Lima, where most competitors are going over their final preparations before blast-off and two weeks of epic racing. But will the race overcome it’s 2017 troubles? Last year proved a highly controversial Dakar blighted by what can only be termed a navigational nightmare, although it appears that the organisers are better prepared this year…
Part of the solution is a smarter, tougher new route that will see the 40th Dakar and the tenth to be raced in South America utilising several loop stages to simplify logistics and lessen the burden on service crews, while still retaining that classic Dakar challenge. This year’s race heads out of Peru, across more desert tests, over the Bolivian Andes and on to the finish in Cordoba, Argentina two weeks later on Saturday 20 January.
Dakar 2018 starts a little later than usual, but it’s one the South African Gazoo Toyota team will certainly win to win before archrival Peugeot quits — the Midrand-built bakkies have one more chance to beat the all-conquering French machines and prevent a 3008 hat trick on their Dakar swansong, but don't ignore those Minis.
On four 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 of those being the new Mini Dakar 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.
KTM is out to continue its seemingly never ending winning streak on the bike front, with a powerful orange team headed by 2017 winner Sam Sunderland, with Toby Price, Matthias Walkner and Gerard Farres-Guell as his wingmen. The likes of Honda quartet Juan Barreda, Ricky Brabec, Paulo Goncalves and Michel Metge are out to make up for a fast but disappointing run last year, while Adrien van Beveren, Franco Mani and Marquis Xavier de Soultrait on Yamahas, Husqvarna’s Pablo Quintanilla and Juan Pedredo Garcia’s Sherco are among those intent to topple the orange army.
Five South African riders will chase the Dakar dream on two wheels too – David Thomas will be back chasing a finish on his Husqvarna, while Willem du Toit, Lesotho lad Wessel Bosman, Donovan van de Langenberg and Gerry van der Byl will race KTMs.
Yamaha men Sergei Kariakin, Ignacio Casale, Rafal Sonik and Josef Macacek should fight it out 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 among Dakar’s bezerk behemoths.