Wednesday November 23rd marked the official unveiling of the 2017 Dakar route. We sent JP to Paris for the day to hear first hand what is in store. Here’s how he got on…
The presentation of Dakar 2017 in Pavillon d’Armenonville, Paris is about as organised of a press conference as you will find in off-road sport. Etienne Lavigne - no relation to Avril - is the director of the Dakar and he hosts the show which includes ambassadors and dignitaries from Bolvia, Argentina and more importantly a Sporting Director by the name of Marc Coma. You’ve heard of him we think.
French TV covers the event in a big way and it’s fair to say Dakar is a big deal here. The packed conference shows the race remains at the top of the pile for off-road sporting competition.
The big story this year is the first real showing of multiple Dakar moto winner, Marc Coma as Sporting Director. It’s a role he’s taken with the grip of a man who’s won the event five times.
Even so, as he announced major changes to the 2017 event, he admitted, “I’ve spent a year rediscovering an event I thought I knew inside out. This year will be a test by fire.”
Those changes for 146 bike entrants covering 8818kms in the 2017 Dakar are many. Those include increased difficulty in navigation with a new control of waypoints on the road books (no more direction arrows), seven stages with the special longer than 400kms including two longer than 500kms - that’s 500kms racing flat out kids!
Of the 12 stages six will be above 3000 metres of altitude, with highest point peaking at a whopping 4800m. Altitude is sure going to be an issue. And as Coma puts it, “Dakar 2017 will be a very interesting game!”
So with a room of competitors and industry people within our midst in the Parisian conference room we grabbed an immediate reaction from those in the know…
Jordi Villadoms - KTM Rally Sport Manager
“I think it looks a lot harder and the idea from Marc to make navigation more important is a good idea for the Dakar. For many people said last year looked a bit too easy - I think Marc has answered those remarks.
“The altitude will be a big factor - Bolivia looks really bad for riders. It could be hard for many reasons. It is normal to have the height but not so much for so long.
“Also the new kind of waypoints will be difficult too, the arrows will be gone, so it is a new kind of way of navigating with the road book.”
Pela Renet - Husqvarna Rally Team
“It looks hard. After what we’ve seen from Marc (Coma) there’s going to be long stages with a lot of high altitude, really high. And with really long stages day after day that will make it a tough Dakar for sure. This year I think it will be harder than last year.
“This month is important for us because it is the start of altitude training so it is important part of preparation to have this one month more.”
“The new style of waypoints will be another hard element, an extra thing which Marc is bringing.I think it is a good thing.
“It will bring the speed down because in the last edition the speed was really crazy and I think with this kind of waypoint you will have to be more focused on navigation so the speed will be a little slower overall.
“My objective is to finish, this is the first goal. I think if I can get to the end and have no crashes, no bike problems then I think I’ll be in a good place.”
Photos: Jon Pearson, Jean-Marie Hervio/DPPI, Sebas Romero, Husqvarna Images