There’s a new category for the Dakar Rally in January. In 2021, we’re going to see the first running of the Dakar Classic—unfortunately, there are no bikes invited at this point.

Here’s what the Dakar site says about the new Classic category:

The Dakar of the 1980s and 1990s was packed with images and stories that forged the DNA of the event. Although these historic vehicles are no longer competitive, they still have a lot to say and are now poised to step back into the ring to tackle the Saudi deserts in a regularity race. Every day, a classification will be drawn up based on compliance with the average speeds established for each of several areas according to meticulous criteria and the type of terrain. The “Classic” vehicles will be racing with the clock, not against it.

So, the race will take place in Saudi Arabia, although it’s going to be on a route that’s tailored to these older vehicles. Instead of racing for the lowest time, this will be somewhat like bracket racing, in that competitors will try to get as close to their optimal time as possible.

The new 12-stage Classic route was put together by Yves Loubet, a specialist in historic vehicles, and Alain Lopes, who raced as a co-driver in the 1980s, say Dakar organizers. There are 12 stages, roughly parallel to the main race, with individual stage lenths of 200-300 kilometers. By the sound of Dakar’s write-up, both the Classic category and the main category will share the same transit sections, but the specials will be different. According to organizers, “The difficulties on the course take into account the power and technical characteristics of the vehicles to avoid mechanical problems and overheating engines. Dunes will be few and far between, but there will be sandy sections that could put the least experienced two-wheel drive competitors in a bind.”

There’s also supposed to be an old-timey campout that will allow the Classic racers to “relive the minimalist atmosphere of the African bivouacs of the 1980s.

Currently, 24 teams are signed up to the Classic category, but none of them are using motorcycles. Alas! However, maybe we’ll see this change in the future—it’d be fantastic to see some of the old-school big-bore dune blasters back in action!

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