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

Motorcycle News (UK) - - THIS WEEK - By Oli Rushby MCN SPORTS RE­PORTER

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

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