The Dakar Rally is reshaping how the legendary cross-country event is contested to keep navigation as a crucial aspect of the competition. It’s been 15 years since the traditional route across the Sahara from Paris, France to Dakar, Senegal has been used. Though, the Dakar is just as treacherous in its current host country, Saudi Arabia. Organizers have actively preserved the challenge of getting from point A to point B across an inhospitable terrain as a core element of the Dakar Rally.
That being said, the Dakar Rally has decided to assign two different stage checkpoint itineraries to competitors randomly. Dakar organizers have stated:
“The principle has been known for a long time in elementary schools where teachers sometimes hand out different assignments to two neighboring students..., which is the best way to ensure that clever competitors will not be tempted to copy. Similarly, the routes of most of the special stages will be split into two over a more or less long section, with the roadbooks of A and B routes assigned randomly. Competitors tempted to follow their predecessors without thinking run the risk of missing their waypoints and thus incur severe penalties.”
If you have watched television coverage of the Dakar in recent years, it is common to see competitors traveling in groups. The leader would actually be navigating the course with the roadbook, and trailing vehicles following the leader blindly. Racing the course in this fashion can be dangerous with such a wide array of vehicle types side-by-side. Massive trucks and motorcycles are out on stages at the same time.
Along with split stages, the 2023 Dakar will be the first with digital roadbook tablets for all classes. Traditional paper roadbooks were phased out of car, truck, and elite motorcycle classes in recent years. Now, all riders will be given a tablet roadbook. The idea is to put all the competitors on an equal playing field. The larger teams do reconnaissance runs of the stages months in advance and could augment the centrally-distributed paper roadbooks with the information they gathered to navigate stages better.
The 2023 Dakar Rally begins on New Year’s Eve this Saturday. Along with the grueling cross-country competition, the daily highlight footage always offers stunning views of bikes, cars and trucks traversing beautiful desert landscapes.