Dakar Rally 2014 - A guide
The Dakar Rally is a race like no other and certainly not for the faint hearted. Only the toughest riders take the challenge on as the Dakar's length and gruelling terrain can destroy a man physically and mentally. In this guide I intend to have a look at the course, the top riders and everything else that the 2014 Dakar has to offer...
This year organisers have upped the difficulty once again with a rally of 8734km over 14 days; 5228km of this are timed special stages which place extra pressure on riders, bikes and tyres. This year also they have scheduled 5 days of bike specific stages which are for two wheels only, meaning organisers can push the bikes to the limits.
The course itself travels across South America, starting in Argentina, moving through Bolivia and finishing in Chile.
Cyril Despres - Yamaha
5 times Dakar winner Despres has been one of the key riders in the rally for more than 10 years. But this year he's changed everything...for the first time he will not start the rally on a KTM but a Yamaha. The switch was prompted by wanting a new challenge, for 12 years Despres has worked with the KTM and been very successful with them. Now he wants to see what he can do on a Yamaha. The bike was good last year and Despres was impressed by its performance. KTM and Honda both have brand new bikes to take on the Dakar this year whereas the Yamaha is a tried and tested which Despres believes to be an advantage.
The French rider has a much more involved approach with his new team; he has restructured it himself as well as having a more hands on approach with the development of the bike.
Despres is very much looking forward to the Dakar this year and believes some of the harder sections and longer special stages will play into his hands because of his experience and training. Certainly don't discount this man.
Marc Coma - KTM
3 times winner Coma is another big contender for the win. He missed last years Dakar due to injury but is back to full strength and ready to take on the world. He'll be aboard KTM's brand new 450 rally bike which he has been helping to develop over the last year. The bike is smaller than its predecessor with more power; nodding to the changes in demand on these bikes as the sections get more technical.
Coma is ready for the challenge of this years rally but says it's probably the toughest field he's seen in recent years. Talented riders who are capable of winning stages as well as the whole event are stacking up behind Coma. He and Despres have their work cut out this year.
Helder Rodrigues - Honda
For a few years now Helder has been the best of the rest behind Coma and Despres. He'll be riding the new Honda CRF450 which he had a big part in the development of.
Not as fast as some of the younger riders Rodrigues' strength lies in his experience, resourcefulness and ability to finish.
Joan Barreda - Honda
The 30-year old Spaniard made a name for himself in world-level motocross with his aggressive style. He's brought this with him to rallying making him desperately quick but more likely to crash and damage the bike and himself.
He'll be riding the new Honda with full factory support and looks set to be big H's number one rider. As long as he reins it in a bit and keeps his composure he may well have a chance at the win.
Francisco Lopez - KTM
The experienced Chilean has made the move up into the KTM factory squad with the departure of Despres. He finished 3rd last year with a privately operated team but you can't beat full factory support.
Last year he won 4 stages and has local knowledge like none of the other riders, one to watch.
Ruben Faria - KTM
For years Faria has stood in the shadows of Coma as his support rider. He finished second last year when filling in for him, now at last he has his own bike and his own campaign to attack.
KTM will let him, Coma and Lopez all race the first week as hard as they can then depending on results the team will be shuffled into main riders and support riders. Faria has it all to prove.
Olivier Pain - Yamaha
Pain put on a real show last year which is why he makes this list. In the first week of the 2013 Dakar the Frenchman dominated and was in the running for the win right up to day 8 where he had a huge crash damaging body and bike. He recovered best he could and ended up finishing 6th overall.
If he attacks this year like he did last and doesn't have any mishaps he could well lead the way into the second week.
Sam Sunderland - Honda
Sam may not be one of the top riders out there as he's never completed a Dakar but he's Britain's best hope. Honda have picked up the 24 year old and stuck him straight onto a full factory bike. He's been beating the likes of Coma and Despres in other rallies but has never managed to crack on with a Dakar. In 2012 he crashed out in stage 2 and this year he didn't even get started after a crash in testing.
2014 is different though and he's ready. For all rally riders this is the big one and Sam knows whatever happens it will be tough.
When's it happening?
The 2014 Dakar rally will take place from the 5th until the 18th of January which each day providing hard riding and special sections. There will be a rest day mid-rally on the 11th.
Where can I watch it?
Whatever happens this year the Dakar 2014 is set to be one of the toughest yet with one of the most competitive fields for over a decade. Enjoy!
27.12.13 - Big Ed