If you inhabit the northern climes, then winter can mean vehicular hibernation if not serious reduction in activities. Fortunately, it is also the time when some favorite motorsport activities take place. A favorite of mine is the Dakar Rally, which launched on January 1st 2011 in Buenos Aries Argentina. The lead up to this year’s race was more eventful than other years. The top drivers/riders are not significantly different, perhaps because only a few human beings have what it takes to finish near the top in a three week off-road race. On two wheels, last year’s winner Cyril DesPres returns to be challenged by arch rival Marc Coma who would have contended for the win if not for a penalty. Both are aboard KTM machines. American Jonah Street had no bike untill very late in 2010, and will be aboard a Yamaha fresh on the heels of winning the Tibet Rally. Chilean Francisco Lopez Contado will be back aboard the Aprilia to prove that there is some home field advantage. Brazilian Jose Helio Rodrigues Filho, and dutchman Verhoeven will join a pair of Portugese riders aboard BMWs. This year the displacement is capped at 450cc, so we will see how this impacts the race.
On four wheels, the top contenders are driving German machines. The podium was all Volkswagen last year, and this year former WRC star Carlos Sainz returns in the VW Touareg. He won last year, and is aiming for a repeat. To do that he will need to hold off the other Vws and a few BMW X3s. One of those is being piloted by Stephane Peterhansel. who has won the event on two wheels and four. BMW is also technically represented by the Mini Countryman team. Check out this Promo video for the Mini effort. This race should really inform their upcoming WRC effort. Among the top contenders is also Robby Gordon who was impressive last year in the Hummer and returns aiming for the podium. Also on four wheels, the Yamaha stronghold on the podium and the dominance of the Patronelli brothers, will be challenged by the Polaris brigade in the quad class.
On more than 4 wheels, nobody is betting against another win for Vladimir Chagin and his Kamaz truck. His teammates in the other Kamaz may be the biggest challengers, but the Ivecos, MANs, and Tatras will be gunning to dethrone the king. For the next 15 days, the daily drama will unfold and the combination of skill, cajones, vehicle, and luck will keep me riveted….