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 OneWheelDrive.net 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.
The best place to track live results is through the rally itself at Dakar.com. 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.
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, Dakar.com 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?