Churning terra firma for ultimate off-road glory

With the flipping of the calendar, all eyes once again turn to South America for the 40th running of the infamous Dakar Rally. 2018 marks the tenth time this arduous 9,000 km (5,592-mile) event has run across the continent, once again keeping the spirit alive with an impressive lineup of high-performance vehicles and talented pilots to guide them. Per tradition, the Dakar promises to deliver tons of drama and motorsport-style heroics, and as such, we’re giving you five things to look out for at this year’s event. We’re also breaking down how to watch the event, be it online or on TV, so read on and get stoked.

Continue reading to learn more about five things to look for at the 2018 Dakar Rally.

A Brief Rundown Of The Event Basics

5 Things To Look For At The 2018 Dakar Rally
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The Dakar Rally takes its name from the original Paris To Dakar Rally held in the late ’70s, which, as the name suggests, pitted competitors in an off-roading endurance race between Paris, France, and Dakar, Senegal, in West Africa. In 2009, the event was moved to South America over security concerns.

Rather than a traditional rally, which restricts competitors to a specific route without any room for deviation, The Dakar is a point-to-point rally wherein drivers determine their own best way to get from A to B.

All told, extreme distances and highly variable terrain make The Dakar one of the most difficult racing events in the world, attracting competitors from a variety of disciplines to test themselves against the most challenging conditions Mother Nature can muster. Simply finishing The Dakar is a major accomplishment, while a win secures a permanent spot in the history books.

Five Things To Look For

1. Hugely Eclectic Collection Of Vehicles

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One of the coolest things about The Dakar is the fact that it brings together literally hundreds of crews to compete, with a total of five major vehicle classes represented. These include cars, trucks, motorcycles, quads, and even UTVs. These classes are broken down into smaller sub-classes, with divisions based on drive type (2WD versus 4WD), engine type (gasoline versus diesel), vehicle weight, modification level, and more.

The end result is a cornucopia of awesome vehicles on display, all tackling the same tough terrain – imagine watching a gaggle of motorcycles flying across the desert, only later to be followed by an enormous 980-horsepower Kamaz truck crashing through the sand and catching air off the dunes.

Bad. Ass.

2. Peugeot Vs. Mini

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One of the biggest stories coming out of the 2018 Dakar is the rivalry between Peugeot and Mini. Peugeot has a history of domination at the event, but more recently, Mini has collected a good number of wins to its name, going undefeated between 2012 and 2015 with four back-to-back victories in the car category. In 2016, Peugeot ended the streak and reclaimed the title, repeating the feat again in 2017. Now, the French automaker is going for a three-peat victory in 2018.

The pressure is most definitely on. Peugeot announced earlier last year it would be pulling out of The Dakar after 2018 over a disputed rule change, so it definitely wants to end on a high note. Conversely, Mini isn’t taking Peugeot’s resurgence lying down, fielding no less than seven cars this year, including several brand-new 2WD Mini Buggy cars to combat the reigning lion-crested 3008 DKRs.

Who will come out on top?

Read our full review on the Peugeot 3008 DKR Maxi.

Read our full review on the Mini John Cooper Works Rally cars.

3. Insane In The Terrain

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Fragile race cars tuned for glass-smooth tarmac need not apply at The Dakar. This off-road event sees competitors taking on shifting sands and desert winds, obstacle-strewn boulder fields, craggy, winding mountain passes, deep gullies and rivers, traction-sapping mud, and more. Throw in the uncertainty of weather, and things can get even more treacherous.

All told, The Dakar is a car killer. And speaking of which...

4. Mechanical Heroics

No machine is unbreakable, and as you might expect, The Dakar has a way of finding the weakness in even the most sturdy and well-prepared competitors out there. So then, when a chunk of the scenery happens to find its way into vital mechanical bits, and there’s no support crew in sight, it’s up to the pilots to make things right. These quick fixes in the field can make or break the race, and definitely ratchet up the drama.

5. Ludicrously Long Stages

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This year, the Dakar Rally will kick off in Lima, Peru, then head through Bolivia before ending in Cordoba, Argentina, covering a total of 8,793 km (5,464 miles) over the course of 14 individual stages. That means some ludicrously long days, including two that are over 900 km (559 miles) a piece. And, as outlined in the above section, we’re not talking about cruising down the highway with your favorite music on the stereo and the climate control set just right. It’s 14 days of maximum attack in a fire-breathing speed beast, making The Dakar just as much a test of endurance and skill as it is mechanical prowess.

When, Where, And How To Watch

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Sounds like a helluva time, no? If you simply can’t wait to watch the spectacle unfold, then you’re in luck, because The Dakar gets underway this weekend with the first stage between Lima and Pisca launching Saturday, January 6th. Racing continues through till the final stage in Cordoba on January 20th, with a single rest day on January 12th in La Paz, Bolivia.

If you’re not planning on heading down to South America to see The Dakar in person, you can still watch it on television, as coverage will be broadcast on 70 different channels in 190 different countries. Those of you hoping to watch it in the U.S. can turn to NBC Sports to check it out. You can check out highlights and find more info here.

You can also watch highlights courtesy of Red Bull TV here.

Finally, it’s possible to connect to geolocked live online streaming coverage (France TV, SBS in Australia, or RTVE in Spain) for free using a VPN, but we wouldn’t recommend it as that could very well be illegal, so check with your local laws and proceed at your own risk.

References

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