Dakar Rally 2018 is already done and dusted, the bikes are packed on their way, riders are already home and celebrations are in full swing. But what did we learn from the 40th running of this monumental event?
Crashes, new manufacturers, navigation errors and massive distances... is it still the toughest off road bike race on earth?
1. The stakes are high
Winning Dakar still means so much that riders are pushing beyond limits to win. Gone are the days when the smart riders knew when to push and when to take it easy.
If any one of the fifteen (at least) riders want to win, they have to race hard for every minute of every Special Stage.
Photo Credit: Dakar Media Service
2. Crashing is all too easy
When you ride that many kilometres, that fast on 145kg rally bikes, crashes are gonna happen.
You might get away with it some of the time, maybe most the time, but sooner or later one of them is going to hurt, just ask Sam Sunderland and Adrien Van Beveren.
3. Seven manufacturers racing
KTM won for the 17th consecutive time and yes, that is mighty impressive. But a customer KTM taking stage podiums, smaller manufacturers like Sherco making the top 10, Hero and Gas Gas teams not just in the race but competitive shows it ain’t all about the big bucks.
Photo Credit: Francois Flamand
4. Yamaha is back
Yamaha’s Factory Rally Team are small by comparison to KTM and Honda standards and it is popular to knock the WR450F-derived machines.
But their bike is every bit the purpose-built tool for the job. Without Adrien Van Beveren’s wicked, high-speed crash while leading, results could have been so different.
5. Riding gear is tougher
Neck braces, back protectors, body armour – no question the riding kit is awesome. From minus temperatures at the 4am, high altitude starts to 40+ degrees desert heat it’s a lot to cope with.
How riders used to cope before they had drinks bladders and pouches we have no clue.
Photo Credit: Dakar Media Service
6. Hats off to Malle Moto riders
As if the Dakar isn’t tough enough the Malle Moto riders are doing it basically living out of a box. Race all day, do all your own maintenance and the pitch your own tent each night. Mucho respect.
7. Media, media, media
Dakar still claims high global media coverage which Dakar organisers claim runs second only to F1 in terms of audience awareness – ahead of WRC, MotoGP, WTCC and certainly Enduro GP. That’s without mentioning the immense volumes of social media coverage.
8. Gigantic distances
Wherever you’re sat imagine tomorrow you got up and set off riding at 4am for 426km, where does that get your in your country?
Once there take a five-minute break and then race flat-out for 288km to some place else before doing another 280km liaison back to your base. Madness.
Photo Credit: Gas Gas
9. Brain strain
Ever since five-times winner Marc Coma became Dakar Race Director huge altitude changes (five days at or above 3000m) and huge distances (almost 9000km in total) are the base-setting.
Navigation is a major sting in the tail during each stage. This is Dakar and some of the reasons why it remains the toughest dirt bike race on earth.
10. The Bucket List
The tenth thing about Dakar 2018? Well, despite all the trials and tribulations discussed above, for better or worse it’s still the race that tops our Must-Do Bucket List, like pretty much every other off road dirt junkie out there!
Jon PearsonEnduro21 Tester of Thingsjon.firstname.lastname@example.org