Competitors are putting the final touches to their motorcycles, quad bikes, cars and trucks ahead of the start of one of the world’s most extreme races. The Dakar Rally returns once again to South America, beginning in Lima, capital of Peru on Saturday January 5, before making its way to Santiago de Chile for a grand finale outside La Moneda on January 20.
The race will have two segments in Chile, with riders arriving from Arequipa in Peru before moving on through Arica and Calama then crossing the border to Salta in Argentina. The race returns to Chile through Copiapó, then travels to La Serena and finishing in downtown Santiago.
After injury to Marc Coma, the motorcycle race will not see the usual battle between the Spaniard and Cyril Despres. Chilean Francisco ‘Chaleco’ Lopez, who has won four different stages, will hope for a podium finish on arrival in Santiago.
Despres and Lopez tested their KTM bikes together in the dunes outside of Lima.
The Chilean rider finished third in 2010, but suffered a heavy crash to put him out of the race in the 2012 edition. Another motorcycle rider, Josefina Gardulski will be the first Chilean female to take on the challenge of finishing.
More than 8.000 kilometres will be covered over the 15 days. Riders will pass through the Atacama Desert, the driest in the world, before crossing over the Andes and into Argentina. Midway through the race, there will be a rest day in San Miguel de Tucumán, allowing the competitors to recover before returning to Chile.
A huge finish is expected in Santiago with authorities hoping to attract 1 million people to see the end of the race. Last year 800.000 people hit the streets of Lima to see the last day of action.
The race has a total of 8.574 kilometres, with 4.146 of them special stages, which require expert navigation.
Some other facts about the Dakar rally: 4 is the number of categories competing: motorcycles, squads, autos and trucks. The record of victories goes to Stephane Peterhansel who has six titles in motorcycle and four in car. Vladimir Chagin has seven wins in the trucks category.
The youngest competitor is 19 years and the oldest, 73. Likewise 53 different nationalities are registered with the French team the largest with 123 competitors.
Some 190 countries will be transmitting the rally with the collaboration of 70 television stations. 1.800 journalists and support crews are registered to cover the event.
Dakar twitter has 57.600 followers and in Facebook the number soars to 600.00.
The 2012 edition web dakar.com received 4.3 million visitors and a total 4.5 million spectators were estimated at the departure and arrival of the rally in Argentina, Chile and Peru. A billion television spectators saw images of the rally’s last edition.
The organization has a fleet of support vehicles which average 210, and includes eleven helicopters and twelve aircraft.
According to Argentine authorities the Dakar rally represented an input of 294 million dollars to the Argentine economy in 2012.
The first rally took off in January 1979.