There are plenty of changes to this year’s Dakar Rally. For the first time since coming to South America, the Dakar will be held exclusively in Peru. With this change, the makeup of terrain will also be different. 70 percent of the event will take place on sandy terrain.
Endurance and Navigation Challenges
Total distance will be approximately 5,000 km (~3,106 miles). This distance will be covered in 10 Special Stages.
Sandy terrain is the most exhausting and likely most difficult part of the rally. With so much sand, navigation will also be at a premium. Competitors will not find easy waypoints. They’ll have to be on the top of their game to reach the stage’s end without penalties.
A Second Chance
There will be a “second chance” for competitors who fall out of the rally prior to the rest day. Organizers felt that competitors deserved a second chance to at least finish the event. So cars, Side-by-Sides, and trucks will be allowed to rejoin the rally after the rest day. Re-joining competitors will be given orange plates and will not be allowed to start in the top 25 of a special stage.
A New Class for Cars
A new class of vehicles has been created. Called UTV Open. They are similar to side-by-side vehicles but have to meet FIA regulations. According to ASO, UTV’s are more similar to Baja buggies than side-by-sides.
Back to Back Marathon Stages
The 4th and 5th stages will be marathon stages. Bikes will cover more than 1285 km (~800 miles) during these two stages. Bikes and Quads will race on a course separate from the Cars/Trucks/Side-by-Sides during these stages.
Normally, bikes open each stage and leave tracks that other competitors can follow, but for stage 2, cars will open the day’s stage. They will have no tracks to follow so navigation skills for the co-drivers will be at a premium.
Stage 8 will see a different start method. The 10 fastest bikes and cars, along with the 5 fastest trucks from the previous day’s stage, will start first.
Finally, stages 5 and 9 will have a mass start. It’s an exciting way to start the special stage, but also a dangerous one. These types of starts are not generally well received by the competitors due to the increased risk of collisions. But clearly, they are very exciting for both the spectators and competitors.