Dakar 2017 is about to get real
Altitude and super-long stages will make this year’s event a test of… everything! Altitude and Endurance 2016 Dakar too easy
The 2017 Dakar Rally will be the toughest in recent history with dramatic changes to the route, half the event raced above 3600m and new navigation rules predicted to make lead changes and restore ‘the essence of adventure’ back to the Dakar.
With a year under his belt as Sporting Director, five-time Dakar winner, Marc Coma, has used his unquestionable wealth of knowledge of this already gruelling event to introduce new rules and routes designed to make the 2017 Dakar “the most demanding of all those run in South America.” Paraguay capital, Asuncion, will play host to the opening ceremony before the event start on January 2. The rally then heads across the Argentinian plains before hitting the Andes by stage three where altitude becomes a major issue for riders. Difficulty increases from there with stage six the longest, some 527km of racing to reach La Paz, Bolivia, for the rest day.
Riders will spend seven of the 12 stages racing between 3600 and 4000 metres with the rest day after stage seven again in La Paz, which at 3600m is the world’s highest capital city so at least the view will be nice...
In total six of the special tests (the raced element each day) will be over 400km in length, with overall total day’s length including liaisons clocking over 700km on eight of the stages. Stages eight and nine look like being the toughest at 892km and 977km respectively.
Sporting Director Coma told MCN: “The difficulty will be a lot of combinations of things in any one day, that is what will make it hard this year, day-after-day. The days where we have altitude, sand, technical riding, navigation... they will have it all. You have to handle all the elements. I think that is what makes it interesting.” Navigation will also play a huge part in this year’s Dakar. Riders are reading the incredibly difficult terrain and navigating at the same time as racing. Gone are the days when competitors could ride flat-out between waypoints.
In 2017 the key change to the navigation information sees controlled waypoints (the targets competitors must hit across the special stages) will largely be hidden too, invisible and only ‘revealing’ with a beacon on the dashboard when riders arrive at them.
KTM Factory Rally Team Manager and former Dakar podium man, Jordi Viladoms, says that making navigation more important is a good idea: “For many people last year it is looking a bit like the Dakar is too easy,” says Viladoms. “It is normal to have the height but not so much for so long. What you can see normally as easy piste will not be because of the altitude - it will be very hard.”
Just another day on the Dakar made to look ridiculously easy (it’s not) by Brit Sunderland