Different stages every day, a fast-changing pace, high-speed stretches alternating with technical legs, intense navigation… Racers have to be skilled, on the lookout for the slightest traps, and shrewd navigators, or else they will loose a great deal of time and energy. Because the Dakar will be an extreme challenge again this year, for both professionals and amateurs alike.
1º Stage Portugal: (Saturday 6)
Connection: 115 km | Special: 117 km | Connection: 232 km
Total: 464 km
The first stage, and the first surprise – this is still only Europe, yet we can already see sand, without even going to the beach. The start of the special promises a few not too serious mishaps… just a foretaste of Africa. Then the technicians will be free to snatch back a few seconds in the bends through the forests of pines and corks. Going after the scratch time, trajectories are worked out to the nearest millimetre.
2º Stage Portugal: (Sunday 7)
Connection: 15 km | Special: 67 km | Connection: 463 km
Total: 545 km
This terrain could lend itself to trekking or a heat of the world mountain-bike championships: welcome to the mountains! The course is tortuous, the ground quite hard. Drivers will prudently slow the pace, just in case the course may be glistening wet. One false move on this “WRC type” route, and the drop can be a severe one. Safer to err on the slower side. After the long liaison to Málaga, tired bodies will benefit from the night of the crossing.
3º Stage Morocco: (Monday 8)
Connection: 205 km | Special: 252 km | Connection: 191 km
Total: 648 km
The start of the business is very serious, particularly in terms of navigation. On the first part of the special, there are very many navigation changes. This is a real maze of tracks. But even once out of this labyrinth, no lapses of attention will be tolerated. And though the rocky trails seem ideal for speed, the many wades will soon bring the drivers back to reality. Take care!
4º Stage Morocco: (Tuesday 9)
Connection: 96 km | Special: 405 km | Connection: 178 km
Total: 679 km
A first lesson in endurance. The second Moroccan special is a long one, and above all very varied – just like the whole of the Dakar 2007. For the novices, this is where the full-scale apprenticeship starts as they discover the dunes and experience their first thrills. This is also the moment to confronter the multiple traps in Africa. The priority of the moment: don’t get carried away.
A “private” bivouac will be set up for motorcycle racers approximately 100 kilometres from Ouarzazate. Assistance vehicles will not be allowed to enter the working park, as this will be an area where only competitors can work on their motorcycles.
5º Stage Morocco: (Wednesday 10)
Connection: 164 km | Special: 325 km | Connection: 289 km
Total: 768 km
Dakar regulars will have rallied from Ouarzazate to Tan Tan on three occasions in recent. Yet despite this, they’ll never have taken the 2007 route on a long-distance trek before. On this special, the drivers are going to be getting a taste of the Atlas Mountains, a feast for the eyes that means the trucks will have to take a slightly different route, a few kilometres shorter. On average, the scenery is dramatic, lunar: for the connoisseurs, a mixture of the Ventoux and the Izoard.
6º Stage Mauritania: (Thursday 11)
Connection: 414 km | Special: 394 km | Connection: 9 km
Total: 817 km
Here’s the longest stage of the rally – by the end of the day, almost a thousand kilometres will have been clocked up! To set off on this long preliminary liaison leading to the Mauritanian border, you have to get up extremely early in the morning. Then you need to apply yourself to navigation by heading and off-road, yet more techniques for drivers and co-drivers to get to grips with again. At this stage in the rally, just one piece of advice: play for economy.
7º Stage Mauritania (Friday 12)
Connection: 4 km | Special: 542 km | Connection: 34 km
Total: 580 km
A particularly full day’s programme, over 600 kilometres. No-one is likely to be left unmoved by this series of tracks, off-road sections, and dunes. This is where you find out just what “crossing the erg” means. And here too, the hierarchy can be thrown radically into disorder. After six days of racing, those who haven’t managed to avoid problems begin to feel the fatigue. Now, those moments of tiredness can cost you dear. Everybody’s going to be glad of the much-needed rest day.
Mauritania: Rest Day (Saturday 13)
This is a moment for taking stock. Many have proved themselves steadfast, though some will have already returned home. If the competitors are holding up, and the vehicle is still in one piece, there’s still plenty of room for optimism. Right in the middle of the Sahara, the setting is ideal to stock up with energy and to get yourself really psyched-up for what remains. It’s still 4,201 kilometres to Dakar.
8º Stage Mauritania: (Sunday 14)
Connection: 35 km | Special: 589 km | Connection: 2 km
Total: 626 km
This special has several facets. The course is quite well-marked, with stony tracks at the beginning of the course; then the enthusiasts will be entitled to a dose of sand in the middle of their day. Patience will be the drivers’ best ally for finding the oasis: the final track has no hidden traps, just so long as you keep your eyes peeled. The panorama that awaits the competitors is more than worth it. Backup vehicles are not allowed in Tichit.
9º Stage Mauritania: (Monday 15)
Connection: 0 km | Special: 494 km | Connection: 3 km
Total: 497 km
This big chunk of desert may seen hard to swallow. Here we are on one of the great classics of the Dakar, revisited and improved for the occasion. Landmarks are extremely few and far between – the finest navigators are going to have their say. For the less inspired, Plan B involves picking the right tyre-tracks to follow. Reaching Nema in daylight is a victory in itself, for after nightfall, everything seems to take twice as long.
10º Stage Mali: (Tuesday 16)
Connection: 10 km | Special: 366 km | Connection: 24 km
Total: 400 km
This stage is replacing the Néma-Timbuktu stage initially planned
11º Stage Mali: (Wednesday 17)
Connection: 280 km - No Special
Total: 280 km
This stage is replacing the Timbuktu-Néma stage initially planned
12º Stage Mali: (Thursday 18)
Connection: 110 km | Special: 257 km | Connection: 117 km
Total: 484 km
This stage is replacing the Néma-Kayes stage initially planned
13º Stage Senegal: (Friday 19)
Connection: 180 km | Special: 260 km | Connection: 18 km
Total: 458 km
Expert skidders are going to have the times of their lives here! On these tracks over laterite, the aim of the game is all about controlling your machine. The team-work between drivers and navigators is also one of the big issues today. To make it to Tambakunda, you’ll also need to think about slowing down and finding the right pace to thread between the baobabs.
14º Stage Senegal: (Saturday 20)
Connection: 124 km | Special: 225 km | Connection: 227 km
Total: 576 km
It’s usually said that the game is over once you’ve crossed the Senegal border. But that’s to be unaware of the possibilities on offer from now on right up till the last day for regaining positions in the general. Those who did the last-but-one stage in 2006 are all too aware of how easy it is to get caught out and lose your bearings here.
15º Stage Senegal: (Sunday 21)
Dakar - Dakar
Connection: 36 km | Special: 16 km | Connection: 41 km
Total: 93 km
The possibility to grasp a handful of seconds, or maybe even advance one or two places – this makes up the challenge (and excitement!) of the final stage. But although this last timed stage gives everyone a chance to become the hero of the day, the most significant aspect of the Rose Lake special is actually something else. Indeed, it marks the end of the great adventure started in Lisbon. And the obstacles overcome along the way merit at least a photo shoot.