RideApart Primer: 2014 Dakar Rally

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Cyril Despres Dakar Yamaha

13 days of racing covering over 3,000 miles of the toughest off-road racing in the world. The Dakar returns to South America this year, with the race starting in Argentina this Sunday, passing through Bolivia and finishing in Chile on January 18, 2014. Here’s what you need to know, what you can expect and how to watch the epic 2014 Dakar Rally.

Who’s Racing?
This is the most exciting thing about Dakar 2014 — more factory motorcycle teams are racing now than any time since the 1980s. 12-time consecutive champion KTM will be present, of course, joined by Honda, which re-entered the race last year. But, this year also marks the return of Yamaha, who’ve hired five-time winner Cyril Despres.

This should excite history buffs: The only person who’s won the Dakar more times than Despres is fellow Frenchman Stéphane Peterhansel, who rode a Yamaha to victory six times during the 1990s.

Mike Johnson Dakar
Mike Johnson, of El Paso, Texas is the only American rider competing this year.

The only American racing a motorcycle this year is Mike Johnson, an engineer from Texas. He’ll be riding a CRF450X for satellite team HT Honda Rally Raid and his goal is simply to finish the arduous race.

Where Are They Going?
After struggling to stay on its historic pan-African route due to security concerns — regional conflicts saw landmines strewn across the course, among many other serious issues — The Dakar moved to South America in 2009. Governments there have rolled out the welcome wagon for the race, which pumps millions of tourist dollars into local economies each year.

2014 Dakar Route Map
The 2014 Dakar will see motorcycles ride through Bolivia for the first time.

The route this year skips Peru in favor of Bolivia, where the rally’s organizers will attempt a new strategy which will see bikes and cars run separate “Marathon” stages on different routes. The idea is to increase safety — bikes start ahead of the faster, more expensive cars, and are then passed at speed by multiple vehicles, often in low-visibility conditions — while allowing the unique abilities of each vehicle type to shine. The bikes will take to a more challenging single-track in the Bolivian Andes, while the cars will run at high-speed across Argentina’s sand dunes.

This year’s race concludes in the historic Chilean port of Valparaiso.

What Are They Riding?
While the original Dakar rally may have been responsible for the inception of the modern Adventure Touring motorcycle, the bikes they race nowadays are much smaller. Essentially beefed-up enduro bikes, they’re restricted to 450cc in capacity and carry long-range fuel tanks, navigation and communication equipment as well as onboard tool kits — riders are expected to be able to perform emergency repairs along the route.

Continue Reading: 2014 Dakar Rally Preview >>

  • El Isbani

    Mike Johnson, Texas!

  • HoldenL

    El Paso with one s.

  • Jose Manuel

    Two words for you… Laia Sanz!

  • Beewill

    Sadly we lost the great American rider, Kurt Caselli, about a month or so ago. All of us who follow this race were really looking forward to watching him run this year with some experience under his belt. He was extremely competitive last year with very little preperation, he won a stage or two even.

    RIP Kurt

    • MichaelEhrgott

      This. I’ve been anticipating the Dakar because of Kurt more than any other event this year. RIP :(

  • Joseph42s

    Hopefully you guys will give it some good coverage. :)

    • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

      Sadly, it’s nearly impossible. We’ll bring you a roundup of the best material, but Dakar makes it impossible to create real coverage around its event.

  • Ben Mcghie

    Thanks for this article. I caught snippets of the Dakar last year (I think? Maybe 2012) and loved it. The bikers are awesome, and I also enjoy the 4wd cars and trophy trucks. Not a huge fan of the quads, big 4wd trucks, or buggies.

    The riders though… it’s nuts. If anyone is on the fence, at least check out the highlights. Pretty intense viewing, but I doubt it does the experience any justice at all!

  • Nathan Haley

    I gotta wonder why Yamaha is running an extensively modified YZ450F motocross bike rather than a modded WR450F enduro, which would ordinarily be considered a more suitable starting point for a rally bike. I guess it’s because the YZ has been redesigned for 2014 and they’re looking to test, showcase and take advantage of their newest tech. MX bikes always get updated first.

    Last year I was really stoked to see Honda getting back into it, and now Yamaha! I think both factory teams have a good chance of challenging KTM. Despres is god-like.

    • C.Stevens

      Marketing. These bikes are so far removed from their stock counterparts that it barely matters what they start with. They want the YZ pushed this year for whatever reason.

      • Nathan Haley

        Makes sense. The YZ is new (but from what I gather, not a night-and-day change) so that’s probably why they’re pushing it.

  • 2wheelsgood

    TV coverage in the U.S. Is at NBC Sports network, starting Jan 6 at 5pm eastern.

  • PeteN95

    The entry list shows two other Americans?:


    • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

      Where’d you see that? The main entry list on Dakar.com only shows Johnson.

  • Andrew Elcik

    ADVRider doesn’t appear to be accepting nOOb’s. Can you confirm that? I can’t get NBC Sports and would really like to see some live coverage no matter what language.