‘Tough­est yet’ 39th Dakar Rally un­veiled

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

The 39th Dakar Rally will be raced over nearly 9,000 kilo­me­tres from Jan­uary 2-14 in Ar­gentina, Bo­livia and Paraguay and will de­mand “ex­treme en­durance”, or­gan­is­ers an­nounced yes­ter­day. The race will set off from the Paraguayan cap­i­tal of Asun­cion, with race sport­ing di­rec­tor Marc Coma promis­ing “the tough­est edi­tion in the his­tory of South Amer­i­can rally-raid­ing”.

There will be one week spent on the Bo­li­vian Alti­plano, with five stages raced at crush­ing al­ti­tudes of more than 3,500m (11,480ft), go­ing up to 4,500m. “High up in the mountains, you’re re­ally tested on a res­pi­ra­tory level,” race di­rec­tor Eti­enne Lav­i­gne told AFP.

“Pro­duc­ing an ef­fort is more com­pli­cated. Com­peti­tors will ex­pe­ri­ence this dis­com­fort very of­ten and for long pe­ri­ods.”

There will also be six spe­cial stages of more than 400km, dune cross­ing and driv­ing in sand, es­pe­cially on the sec­tions of the route still un­known to rally-raid reg­u­lars or dur­ing the all-im­por­tant “Su­per Be­len” stage, three days from the fin­ish line in Buenos Aires.

“It’s a very phys­i­cal course for the com­peti­tors, the stages are long and on the bike or quad they’ll be very phys­i­cally chal­lenged,” Lav­i­gne said, adding that the rally threw up an un­prece­dented se­ries of ex­treme ge­o­graph­i­cal sce­nar­ios and cli­mates. “There will be great dif­fer­ences be­tween the trop­i­cal tem­per­a­tures in Paraguay, the high-alti­tude cli­matic con­di­tions (in Bo­livia) and then the de­scent into the north­west­ern part of Ar­gentina which is very dry and desert-like.

“The na­ture of the ter­rain, both tricky, rocky, off-road, nu­mer­ous sandy parts on the route, along with rain, wind, some­times snow, mud, sand, salt... It makes for a very com­pli­cated cock­tail for the com­peti­tors.” Some 316 ve­hi­cles, in­clud­ing 83 cars and 146 mo­tor­bikes, are reg­is­tered for the rally, which will fea­ture old hands such as Peu­geot’s French duo of de­fend­ing cham­pion Stephane Peter­hansel and Cyril De­spres, and Toy­ota’s two-time win­ner Nasser al-At­tiyah of Qatar and South African Giniel De Villiers. Also in the run­ning will be nine-time world rally cham­pion Se­bastien Loeb and Car­los Sainz, both in Peu­geots, 2004 Dakar cham­pion Nani Roma in a Toy­ota and Fin­land’s Mini driver Mikko Hir­vo­nen, fourth on his de­but in 2016. It will be the ninth time the Dakar Rally has been held in South America.

The race was can­celled in 2008 over se­cu­rity threats in Mau­ri­ta­nia, or­gan­is­ers tak­ing the de­ci­sion to move the rally to another con­ti­nent in 2009.— AFP

PARIS: Peu­geot driver Stephane Peter­hansel, of France, poses dur­ing the pre­sen­ta­tion of the Dakar Rally 2017 in Paris, yes­ter­day. The race will start in Paraguay and fin­ish in Buenos Aires in Ar­gentina from Jan. 2 to Jan. 14, 2017. — AP

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