Every year, as Rally Dakar draws nearer, fans begin to search for the best ways to watch the race live. And every year, it’s the same story: it’s either quick, scattered YouTube updates from the ASO, RedBull TV, or some quick summaries on a few online media outlets; around the world, a few TV stations offer a quick glimpse or two, but aside live results and the fast summaries that essentially say the same thing over and over again – “rough terrain, tricky navigation” seems to be the mantra no matter which rider is being interviewed or what stage is being discussed – there’s just not much in-depth coverage of the event.
Unless Lyndon Poskitt is involved, the same goes for all the other big desert rally races: Africa Eco Race manages to update daily results and not much else, posting some captionless images on their social media accounts; Andalucia Rally, a Road to Dakar event supposed to replace Rallye du Maroc, can’t even be bothered to publish their preliminary entry list, let alone update the fans on what’s going on in Andalucia this year and who might be looking to win a free entry for Dakar 2022.
Why is that? If rally fans are thirsty for live updates, streaming from the stages, in-depth discussions of results, and interviews with the competitors, why isn’t the media supplying what’s on demand?
I wonder if of the biggest reasons may be prohibitive media accreditation costs, which can be thousands of euros for the larger races; in almost every other field, sport, and industry, journalists are invited to cover the action rather than being charged to do so. After all, the more coverage, the more the fan base grows, but when it comes to rally racing, it’s almost like it wants to remain a closed-off, exclusive world offering mere mortals a few basic morsels of information, and the rest, well – who cares, the show will go on regardless.
And the show does indeed go on, covered or not; some media teams make it work by offering racers images and video clips on the side, some manage to get funding through social media and YouTube. In 2019, when Rally Dakar was held in Peru, I managed to get bivouac access by helping riders with logistics and minor errands before the race; every day, I chased the Rally on my own bike, catching racers during refueling or at the stage finishes, running errands for the malle moto riders while interviewing them on the go, and doing my best to cover the race as best as I could with the limited resources and access that I had.
While all of the competitors, support crews, bivouac staff, mechanics, and riders were always friendly and eager to talk even after grueling stages and insane challenges, I’ll never forget being told to keep out from the media center tent while waiting at some obscure waypoint in the desert. With temperatures of 40+C and direct scorching sun overhead, the media tent was the only shelter providing shadow from the insane heat, and I asked if I could stand under it – at the very edge, away from all the laptops and cameras – just for a little bit; I got a firm no and given a distance of at least five meters, as I wasn’t a part of the accredited conclave. On the one hand, fair enough; on the other, the human factor was clearly missing – good thing I don’t mind a little bit of heat, especially in the face of what the riders had to go through that day.
Chasing the gloryWhat’s your take? Would you like to see more Dakar Rally and Africa Eco Race coverage, and how do you normally follow these races?