2018 Dakar Rally – The Route
Unlike recent South American instalments of the Dakar Rally, where the course has tended to be more of a loop, the 40th staging of the great event this coming January will ‘beeline’ from north to south. It’ll start on January 6 in Peru’s Lima and wind its way via Bolivia to the finish line in Argentina’s Córdoba a couple of ball-breaking weeks later. For the third year in succession – for reasons that organisers have not elaborated on too much – the route does not venture into Chile (which is a pity because the vistas of those expansive sand dunes that run all the way down to the finish line in the Pacific Ocean coastal city of Iquique will always be one of the event’s most enduring images).
The 40th Dakar does, however, return to the Pacific Ocean. And for the first time since 2013, competitors will spend much of the event’s first five days taking on the sand dunes of Peru. The adventure then continues in Bolivia at more than 4000 metres above sea level, before concluding in a country that has been a staple of the Dakar since its arrival in South America in 2009: Argentina. And for 2018, the Argentinean enthusiasts will have the pleasure of welcoming their heroes in Córdoba, where the race will finish for the first time.
So, will KTM win its 17th consecutive Dakar Rally in January? Can Australia’s Toby Price rebound from this year’s disappointment and busted leg to notch up his second Dakar crown? Will Price’s Factory KTM teammate, Sam Sunderland (who just won the opening round of the FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship in Abu Dhabi), post back-to-back wins after so many years of bad luck and cruel injuries? Can the star-studded HRC Honda Team finally nail that elusive Dakar win? Will Husqvarna’s standout talents of Pablo Quintanilla and the fast-improving Pela Renet upset the South American applecart?
Ahh, so much to play for in 2018. So many story lines. So much intrigue. So many unknowns. Is it just us, or has the battle for Dakar Rally honours escalated to an all-new level this coming year?