2017 will kick off with one of the most massive motorized adventure events of all time: the 39th annual Dakar Rally. Next year’s route and favorite competitor lineup has just been announced, and of course the 5,500-mile odyssey is slated to be more badass than ever before.
Paraguay will be the 29th country the Dakar Rally has visited since its creation at the end of the 1970’s. As some of you may know the race ran through the African desert from Paris, France to Dakar, Senegal up until 2008 when the event was temporarily shut down over fears of violence.
At the end of 2007, five French tourists were killed in a terror attack in Mauritania (just north of Senegal) which soured the French race organizers on the idea of driving in Africa.
Starting in 2009 the race was moved to South America where it’s to be held again next year and seemingly indefinitely. Though for reasons defying logic organizers have held on to the name “Dakar Rally.” To me that’s like moving the Daytona 500 to, I mean, any other race track and still calling it “the Daytona 500.” Just... why?
(If you do still want to race from Europe to Dakar, you want to get onboard with The Africa Race.)
But Dakar’s still Dakar, even if it doesn’t go to Dakar. And this week race oranizers announced the route and picked a few favorite competitors you might want to keep an eye on.
The 2017 edition of the race begins on January 2nd in the Paraguayan capital of Asunción. From there it goes west then north to a mid-point in La Paz, Bolivia before heading way south and back east to Buenos Aires, Argentina per the Dakar’s official site.
Total distance has only been reported as “nearly 9,000 kilometers” (about 5,600 miles) which is consistent with the race’s usual length, and will run over 12 days until January 14th. That’s a pretty quick turnaround to cover that much ground! Especially when you’re running though unmarked areas and open desert.
To make things even more exciting I hear elevation is going to range from 11,000 feet to almost 15,000 feet above sea level. That’s going to be absolute hell on rider’s respiratory systems and engines trying to turn air and gasoline into power.
Dakar is currently reporting that 316 vehicles are slated to start the race, breaking down as 146 bikes, 83 cars (which is everything from buggies to light trucks) 50 trucks (big trucks) and 37 quads.
Here’s a little teaser about who’s running this year, and what you can expect the event to look like if you’ve somehow never learned about it.
We will try and round up a more complete list of competitors worth paying attention to when the event gets closer, but for now I’ll just say I’m most excited to see American Trophy Truck and Pro2 truck champ Bryce Menzies rip it up on the Red Bull/Mini team.
Menzies has established himself as beast behind the wheel in Baja and desert races all over the United States, but I know he’s been keen to get a piece of this race for some time. I actually happened to bump into him in a bar in Iquique, Chile back at the beginning of 2015 and he was already scoping out the scene down there.
Robby Gordon has been working his butt off for years trying to get a win at Dakar, but thus far has not been able to make it happen. Maybe Menzies is the American to get a gold for us!