How to follow the 2011 Dakar

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The Dakar is, much to our chagrin, impossible to cover effectively. Virtually no cohesive and certainly no comprehensive material escapes the wilds of Argentina and Chile, but that doesn’t mean that if you’re enthusiastic and determined, that you can’t get some idea of what’s happening in the race, which started yesterday and runs through January 16.

Photos: Marcelo Maragni/KTM/Red Bull Photofiles

The big problem is simply the vast scale of the rally. This year, 170 bikes and 33 quads started, setting out to complete a 9,500km route that includes 5,000km of actual racing and 4,500km of transfers between those special stages. Within each special stage are a dozen or more waypoints, through which each rider must pass. Those waypoints aren’t marked in any way and it’s not known until officials review the GPS records of each rider at the end of the day whether or not they successfully navigated through all of them. Penalties for missing a single waypoint can be up to six hours. Check out this excellent article on for an in-depth explanation of this year’s navigational changes.

With all that need to cover thousands of miles, navigate with pin-point precision and avoid collisions as the much-faster cars overtake them, riders must also navigate dunes, water crossings, hill climbs and every other manner of off-road obstacles. The vast majority of entries are from privateers or amateurs (like the guy on the two-stroke Bultaco), but official coverage unwaveringly focusses on factory efforts from the likes of Red Bull, KTM and Aprilia, who also generate their own press material throughout the race.

Taking all that into account, you can see why it’s so hard to effectually cover the race. Even the official, long-format TV broadcasts manage little more than brief highlights of the action.

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The best place to track live results is through the rally itself at They also publish a daily video summary (above) of the top finishers in each stage as well as some b-roll material (below) on their YouTube page everyday. You might be lucky enough to spot some extra video action on YouTube before ASO’s lawyers have it removed. If you want to get more illegal, you can find a live-stream of Eurosport that works no matter which country you’re in here and a schedule of programming here. Official coverage is also provided on the US cable network Vs. Neither provides much more material than that published on YouTube.

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Want to get more illegal? Torrents are available. A list of them can be found on ADVRider or, as with all racing, Racing-Underground has the highest quality and fastest downloads, but it’s invite only.

In terms of text, publishes invariably vacuous rider quotes at the end of each day. Although, to be fair, can you imagine saying anything sensible to a reporter after completing a Dakar stage? KTM also distributes an email with top results that often includes material on non-KTM teams that have also finished in the top ten. Bikes in the Fast Lane publishes this email each day.

Perhaps our favorite new way to feel like we’re a part of the Dakar is to laboriously pour over each stage in ridiculous detail using Google Earth. Scott, from Hog Wild Racing is publishing the best Dakar maps we’ve ever seen each day on ADVRider. Just download them and open with Google Earth and you can see details of every single obstacle.

Us? As before we’ll be trying to pick out and expand on the interesting feature stories that emerge during the race’s duration. We’re not saying we want anyone to fall down a tomb this year, but it sure does make a good story when the race’s director rescues them with a helicopter.

Got any other tips for watching the unwatchable race?

  • th3w3s

    Keep an eye on this thread:

    (skip to the last few pages)

    Updated by a handful of guys (one of which is in South America) dilligently searching for up to the minute info

  • tropical ice cube

    Er, sorry guys but who cares?

    Bunch o’ over-rich teams killing goats or kids standing in their lines to get as fast as possible to the other side of the kind of countries money buys anything.

    Ever wonder why no such event happens in the US, which offers way more in terrain diversity? We’re outside legalese or common sense here: it’s just plain criminal to cross a country hammering the throttle ’til it breaks, in villages & everywhere.

    When I was a kid, the Rallye Paris-Dakar was a dream; nobody was talking climate change, and it was barely the start of the public awakening to the conditions of populations living in the third world. I saw them leaving from Place de la Concorde, remember Hdenry Pescarolo and his 2 wheel drive ultralight buggy casting a doubt upon all these factory Pajeros; remember how nobody believed in the R80GS prior to its victories.
    It was a circus with lots of money, but it was still a ‘Rallye Raid’, lots of people joining just for the trip and the fabulous arrival on the Lac Rose near Dakar.

    Then passer-by started to die, and Cardin engaged a Rolls Royce at his new perfume ‘Jules” on the event (well, it was a Toy Hilux with RR bodywork actually)

    Pass the sick bucket.

    Then Thierry Sabine died, and then they started having trouble organizing the route for the event: no kidding they’ve become targets, both for their recklessness and their wealth.

    So what they’do? Move to South America, where they don’t have to deal with the grossness of their attitude and project, and it’s disconnection from local reality.

    Or not yet.

    Dear Wes & Grant, this and the ‘survival’ interview are the sole topics where HfL disappoints me with this slight smell of ‘red neck’ conventionalism. You’re so much better when you ride mopeds in Detroit.


    • ike6116

      How dare you question the right of privileged white people to do privileged white people things?

      I understand the sentiment, I do but I think HFL would be remiss in not talking about this. Like it or not, much like New York’s Fastest, Dakar is a part of motorcycle culture. Bike manufactures brag when one of their bikes win.

    • Wes Siler

      Do you know of any documented evidence of Dakar’s negative impact on the environment or a significant social impact that’s not offset by the money it brings into local economies? If so, we’ll look into it.

      • tropical ice cube

        Just _now_:

        R.I.P. Natalia Sonia Gallardo.

        There are impacts money can’t compete with.

        But of course these are just ‘easy’ emotive arguments, manicheist view of a (maybe) more complicated situation;
        You have to have lived in the third world to realize: At the peak of the ‘African’ Dakar, fuel was ferried by C130 airplanes to each ‘camp’ every night. How much went into the pocket of the local guy selling 2-stroke mix, do you think? Not much.
        Such an event needs of course rock-solid logistics, be it food, fuel, spares… Stuff you organize in advance. So much in advance actually, that you don’t buy much locally – unless it’s from Total or BP or really big guys from the capital city. Who would you rely on for these issues? the local market stalls? Don’t kid me. There is a hell of a lot of money – heck, it’s 550 vehicles, total – but where is that downpour of $$$ going do you think?

        Emotional, again: small fry gets fucked, big bosses make plenty. But I am not the journo here -you are- and I just can’t cite other sources than the ones I usually follow day-by-day. Like, you know, the French National Radio or the daily ‘Liberation’: fuckin’ tree-huggers leftists, all of them, no doubt. I guess the Media Landscape is different in the US, but here your average ratio is a lot of pissed articles by very average writers.

        To me, the Dakar is criminal, disconnected, unfair for sure, but mostly, mostly, the Dakar is obsolete.

        In French, sorry: article casting serious doubts on waste management of this 550-vehicle caravan – of course there is money for that, but where is it going?

        Another killing feature: the rallye sees its route going through protected National Parks including this year with Punta Chorros.

        Where is that sick bucket?

        On a lighter note, and to actually answer Wes first question in the first place, if you wanna follow the rallye real-close, why not register with, and book a 325EUR/pax dinner with, as they put it “one of the leading teams in the competition”; that dinner includes watching the daily briefing, and a Champagne-at-will open bar as featured in the official ‘Bivouac’ (Rallyes’ campsite).

        Quick with that bucket, please.

        • Wes Siler

          While any death is obviously terrible, what you describe here sounds like any form of big racing or any form of big business for that matter. People have been killed after paying hundreds of dollars to watch an F1 race and flying planes full of MotoGP bikes around the world can’t be good for the environment.

          Everything has its downsides, but I don’t see how this particular form of racing has more than most.

    • NitroPye

      Buzz kill.

      Sometimes fun things are just fun without having to analyze every damn bit of them to death.

  • chris

    By far the best way I’ve found to follow the Dakar.


  • adrenalnjunky

    But we’ve got the Speed network! Home of NAscar and Pink: All out! And more Nascar, and Pinks: All Out. Then NHRA, then Barrett Jackson (Speed? those cares barely move :-) ) Then you get another Nascar show (Recapping all the previous Nascar shows), and maybe, if you’re lucky, a Moto GP race from 3 months ago, broadcast @ 2am.

    Australian V8 Super Cars series, BTCC, WRC Rally, diligent MC race coverage just isn’t there.

    Lets go turn on Speed and see what’s on right now: I’m shocked, I saw a motorcycle – it’s a show about James Stewart called “Bubba’s world” Watched 5 minutes and realized this is more about his lifestyle than actual information about his racing career. Too “Kardashian” for my tastes. Then after that, it says Monster Jam comes on – I left that out earlier, apologies.

    (And I’m actually a Nascar fan – just don’t need 100 shows that talk about the same race every day of every week – that’s what Sirius radio is for.)

  • Neil

    Thanks for the mention of Charlie Rauseo’s article on navigation!

  • th3w3s
    • th3w3s

      my bad, just noticed Chris already posted a link to SBS…

    • Wes Siler

      Yeah, that’s the same material that’s on YouTube too.