The world’s top adventure riders have been down in South America the past week, competing in the 33rd running of the Dakar Rally. Racing through South America since 2009, the 2012 Dakar will be taking competitors through some of the toughest terrain available in Argentina, Chile, and Peru, as The Dakar continues to live up to its name as one of the toughest races in motorsport, and this year’s rally has tragically already claimed its first life, as motorcyclist Jorge Martinez Boero of Argentina died from a cardiac arrest, after crashing during the rally’s first stage.
For Stage 6 (Fiambala-Copiapo), the weather and terrain were apparently too inhospitable, even by Dakar standards. Set to cross the Andes Mountain Range for the seventh time in the rally’s history, snow and rain at the 15,420 foot Paso de San Francisco pass was too inclement for Chilean authorities to keep the crossing open. Accordingly, today’s stage will be a convoy of all the Dakar Rally vehicles, with the rally’s itinerary changed after the border crossing in Chile from Argentina.
It looks like the rumors were true, as Dorna announced today that the MotoGP World Championship will race in Argentina during the 2013 season. In an event attended by Argentinean President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, Dorna announced that MotoGP will come to the Autódromo Termas de Río Hondo track in the Santiago del Estero province for three years, starting in 2013 (subject to FIM homologation of course). Bringing premier motorcycle racing back to South America, Argentina is the second stop added so far to the 2013 calendar, as Austin, Texas will also host MotoGP starting in 2013.
In the MotoGP World Championship there are 18 stops on the calendar at different race venues, and the series has a penchant for looking to expand its global reach. It seems just about every season there’s a bevy of rumors about possible venues the premier class of motorcycle racing could stop at, and 2011 season is no different.
While a Spanish GP is a sure-fire way of ensuring a massive attendance, there does seem to be some motivation in Dorna to spread the wealth as it were, and the Secretary of Tourism of Argentina has made it clear he’d like to see MotoGP racing back on the South American continent, preferably at the Autódromo Termas de Río Hondo just outside of San Juan.
To call the Dakar dangerous is probably an understatement, as the rally has been fraught with stories of peril from its very inception. Often alone in some of the most remote terrain in the world, riders rely primarily on themselves for their safety, but the sport is marked with moments where participants put aside competition to help each other.
Stage 5 of the 2011 Dakar Rally had one of those stories yesterday, as KTM rider, and overall race leader Marc Coma found himself as the first person to come across an unconscious Olivier Pain on the race course. Coma, who himself had sustained a fall earlier in the day, stopped at Pain’s crash site and activated the unconscious rider’s emergency beacon. Coma stayed with with the fallen rider until his water carrier, Joan Pedrero, arrived on the scene.
Making its third start from South America, the 33rd Dakar Rally officially kicks off on New Year’s Day tomorrow in Buneos Aires. Making a quick trip to Victoria, Argentina (174 mils as the crow flies), the 2011 Dakar Rally competitors will have to contest with what is being considered a more difficult and technical course than last year’s route. In total there are 445 competitors (180 motorcycles, 140 cars, 67 trucks, & 32 ATVs) entering the race, but history tells us a smaller number will finish the course.
KTM’s Cyril Despres is favored in the motorcycle category, after winning the 2010 rally, but he will have to contend with fellow KTM rider Marc Coma and Francisco Lopez Contardo, whose Aprilia has been extensively improved upon over last year’s debut model, and could be a real contender this year in the Dakar. Of course rally purists will still lament the fact the race isn’t taking place in Africa, but the Dakar is getting back to its roots a bit, and has limited the use of global positioning satellites. Photos and video after the jump.
The organizers of the Dakar Rally have released details on the 2011 edition of the adventure race. Dashing hopes that the race would return to its namesake, the Dakar Rally will again be held in Chile and Argentina. With the route going as far north as the Peruvian border, Dakar riders will see many more sand-filled stages, and will have to contend with a number of rule changes. Stage schedule and more, after the jump.
It doesn’t seem to matter where the Dakar Rally is located, or what restrictions race officials place on the motorcycle class, KTM continues its dominance of motorcycling’s most grueling and infamous race. After battling with Marc Coma and Aprilia’s Chilean secret weapon Francisco Lopez for stage wins and overall supremacy, Despres took his third Dakar victory, and continued a KTM tradition.
The Boston Globe is running a series of photos from the Dakar Rally, which we think are some of the best shots we’ve seen of the race to date. A mixture of octane and gorgeous landscape, we think you’ll enjoy these shots as much as we did. You can find the rest of them here at boston.com.
Rally racers are currently on their 12th stage of the race, heading from in San Juan, Argentina to San Rafael. After today, the riders will have to complete two more stages before the rally concludes where it began in Buenos Aires.
Photo: GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images
On January 13th, 2009, the Dakar Rally will for the first time, not involve trekking to Africa. Instead the venue will be held in Argentina and Chile. The change comes after the rally was cancelled last year for the first time since its inception in 1979 due to concerns over security. This coming rally will cover 5600 miles of varying terrain, just like the original rally. 530 teams will take off from Buenos Aires to start their six-day journey, of which there will be 230 motorcycless, 30 quads, 188 cars, and 82 trucks, from 49 nations.