The Dakar Rally is an annual off-road endurance race, or rally raid, that first took place in 1979. The original event, known as “The Paris-Dakar,” began in Paris, France, and ended in Dakar, the capital of Senegal. The course has varied since 1979, with cities other than Paris and Dakar serving as both start and finish locations.
The biggest course change, however, occurred in 2009. Following the cancellation of the 2008 rally (Lisbon to Senegal) due to security threats and concerns over competitor safety, organizers moved the Dakar Rally to South America, breaking with the traditional Europe/Africa format.
The Dakar Rally took place in Argentina and Chile in 2009, 2010 and 2011. South America hosted the event for the fourth successive time in 2012, but with the addition of stages in Peru.
The Dakar Rally Arrives in Peru
In February 2011, rally organizers confirmed that Peru would host the final three stages of the 2012 Dakar Rally (Peru already had its own rally events, such as the Caminos del Inca, but the Dakar would bring global attention to the country). The rally began in Mar del Plata, Argentina, on January 1, 2012, before moving into Chile a week later. On January 12, the Dakar Rally arrived in Peru for the first time in its history, with competitors crossing from Arica in northern Chile to Arequipa in southern Peru.
The final three stages took place entirely within Peru, from Arequipa to Nazca, Nazca to Pisco, and finally from Nazca to Lima. The Peruvian capital hosted the awards ceremony. In total, the 2012 Dakar Rally covered more than 5,500 miles of tough terrain, crossing from coast to coast in 15 days.
The 2013 Dakar Rally Begins in Peru
The 2013 Dakar Rally will also take place in Argentina, Chile and Peru. This time, however, the event will start in Lima. The first stage will begin on January 5, with competitors heading south along the coast from Lima to Pisco. For the first time in its history, the Dakar Rally will begin in desert terrain.
The second stage (January 6) will take place entirely within the Pisco region. The following day, competitors drive from Pisco to Nazca, before heading from Nazca to Arequipa on January 8. The rally then moves from Arequipa to Arica, Chile, on January 9.
Having exited Peru, the 2013 Dakar Rally will head down through northern Chile before cutting in to northern Argentina on January 11 (Calama, Chile, to Salta, Argentina). After four full stages in Argentina, including stops in San Miguel de Tucumán and Córdoba, the course heads back into Chile, pushing further south to the finish line in Santiago. The event will end on January 19.
Dakar Competitors and Vehicle Classes
The Dakar Rally features both amateur and professional entries, with hundreds of competitors competing across four vehicle categories: cars, bikes, quads and trucks. Each category is subdivided into further categories, often depending on weight, power or the extent to which the vehicle has been modified.
According to figures published on the official Dakar Rally website, 465 vehicles entered the 2012 event: 171 cars, 185 motorcycles, 33 quads and 76 trucks.
Compared with standard rallies, the “rally raid” format of the Dakar places additional strain on every vehicle (and driver). Competitors must cross various terrains, which may include desert landscapes, rocky mountain passes and muddy grasslands. Many competitors fail to complete the entire rally, which often lasts for at least 15 days (with only one rest day).
The Dakar Rally is never far from controversy and criticism. The event often raises environmental concerns, both in terms of vehicle pollution and the destruction or erosion of local landscapes. Prior to the 2012 Argentina-Chile-Peru rally, Peruvian and Chilean archaeologists warned about the potential destruction of ancient geoglyphs (both known and yet to be discovered) in the deserts of Ica and Iquique respectively.
The Dakar Rally also has a long history of injuries and fatalities involving both competitors and spectators. Since the first event in 1979, there have been at least 58 deaths (25 competitors and 33 spectators). The last fatality occurred in 2012, when Argentine motorcyclist Jorge Andrés Martínez Boero died during the first stage of the event.