Well, it’s final, the 46th edition of the Dakar Rally has started!
418 racing machines lined up for the start of the prologue. Of these, there are 132 motorcycles, including 28 bikers who ride in the Original by Motul category, i.e. without assistance. Among them are two Czechs – matador David Pabiška and then Libor Podmol, who would like to reach the finish line, which he failed to do last year. And thirty motorcyclists signed up for the W2RC, i.e. the World Championship in long-distance competitions. The category of four-wheelers is dying, but it still exists – there are only ten of them.
On the other hand, the car is blessed at the start. Seventy machines are competing in the Ultimate class, which also includes three Czech crews, i.e. Martin Prokop with Viktor Chytka, Karel Trněny with Michal Ernst and Tomáš Ouředníček with David Křípal. Twenty-two of them will start at the Dakar as part of the W2RC. Three cars are in the Stock class, 42 are in the Challenger class and 36 are small buggies, where their class is officially called SSV.
Buggyra seemed to have big plans in this class, think Tomáš Enge and Josef Macháček, but this year you won’t find a single Czech crew in it. And that’s definitely a shame. Young Aliyyah Koloc had a buggy last year as a stepping stone, and this year she too has moved behind the wheel of a personal car. And so she surprised in the prologue.
As for trucks, which is the category that historically has the most noise in the Czech Republic, 47 crews start here. The eyes of most Czech fans are of course fixed on the pair of Macík and Loprais, but Josef Valtr (father) and Michal Valtr (son) also drive, the third in the party Jaroslav Valtr (son) is the navigator of Aleš Loprais. This family clan starts not only in different trucks, but also in different teams.
In the starting field of the 46th year there are 130 newcomers, for whom the Dakar is once a great unknown. It is therefore interesting that 133 drivers and co-pilots have the status of “Legend” in their surname, which means that they are driving for at least the tenth time! Among them are Loprais, Macík or Pabiška.
Although the Dakar Rally is primarily a men’s affair, know that 27 female competitors also start in it. When the Dakar Rally first moved to Saudi Arabia, there was a lot of discussion about women’s participation. And it was far from just female competitors, but also female photographers, managers and organizers. After all, in the spring of 2018, women in Saudi Arabia were not allowed to drive a car.
The religiously conservative monarchy was the last country in the world where women were not allowed to get behind the wheel, and a number of women activists for the right to drive even found themselves in prison. Three years later, Saudi Arabia already had its first female competitor. And in the bivouac, the presence of women is completely natural, and even outside of it, don’t expect that the women or girls participating in the rally have to hide in any way.
Among them are the couple Barbora Holická and Lucie Engová (Tomas Enge’s sister). These two ladies start with a duck, i.e. a Citroën 2CV in the 4th edition of the Dakar Classic. It itself can boast a caravan of 170 competitors, who start together in 78 racing machines.
This year’s Dakar Rally is also the first race of the second season of W2RC, the competition that replaced the FIA Cross-Country World Cup. 86 machines are participating in it.
In the list of racing machines and classes, I finally keep the rather controversial Mission 1000 category. It is listed for vehicles with an alternative drive and their track has no more than a hundred sharp kilometers per day. Everyone laughed at the glorious start of the hydrogen truck, which turned around after a few kilometers and ended up in the next bivouac on the sleeper of the accompanying truck, but the organizers continue to stand their ground and we will come back to this category. This year it concerns 6 motorcycles, 4 cars and 1 truck.
And the number of nationalities? France dominates with 124 competitors ahead of Spain (84) and the Netherlands (62), so the order of nations is the same as last year. The Czechs have 35 competitors at the start. And female racers.
Saudi Arabia is the twelfth largest country in the world in terms of area, but it has a population of just under 30 million. The Dakar Rally is held here for the fifth time and it is already clear that it will be held here five more times. This year’s race is divided into a prologue and 12 stages, a total of 7,975 kilometers await the competitors, of which 4,729 km are measured. Eight stages have a measured distance of more than 400 kilometers.
The organizing agency ASO employs 35 people during the year, over 600 of them work at the race site. In total, more than 2,500 people take care of the Dakar in Saudi Arabia, including cleaners, bivouac guards, catering people and water tanker drivers . There will be 11 helicopters in the air, the organizers are using almost 100 cars, 55 trucks and 20 buses.
Any other numbers please?