Tips in Surviving the Dakar Rally
Ever since its conception, the Dakar Rally became the highest standard of motorsport challenges, giving it the prestige of being known as the world’s most unforgiving motor race. Only the Isle of Man TT can stand up to it in terms of brutality and it faces a challenger in endurance solely from the World Rally Championship.
Due to the dangers of terrorism, the Dakar Rally has moved to South America from its former location in Africa, but that doesn’t mean the level of difficulty has faltered. The 2018 event commenced on January 6 and ended on January 20, which covers a staggering 5600 miles, with half of which raced at competitive speeds, from Peru, through Bolivia, into Argentina. Over 550 miles of driving was spent during its longest day, while 310 miles comprised of the longest competitive stint. That means contestants only had one day of rest!
The said racing event never fails to create iconic competitors annually, but one in particular emerged more prominently than the others this year, which is Giniel de Villiers from South Africa assisted by his co-driver Dirk von Zitzewitz from Germany. They braved the sand dunes in their Toyota Gazoo Racing SA Hilux. Here’s the whole experience as shared by de Villiers himself.
Surfing the Sands
“We drive through the dunes all the time. We call it surfing, because the key is to stay on top of them, not sink in. All dunes are different sizes, different shapes, some have holes in, some don’t. In this particular shot we went through a hole and then up the other side again. The Hilux caught some sand on its nose and shot it forwards, creating the cloud that the photo caught us in. In the car, in truth we hardly noticed – this sort of thing happens all the time.”
If You Can’t See, You Can’t Go
“There’s a big difference between being in a dust cloud and not being able to see. In the car all your senses are heightened. It’s intense. You listen to the engine, your navigator and so on. If you’ve driven on the road with your wife telling you to slow down, you’ll relate!”
“A dust cloud is a brief moment, but if you are following another car, for instance, you just can’t see. You stop or take another route. The risks are too big to drive blind. There are big holes, big rocks, cliffs. If you can’t see, you can’t go.”
The Unexplainable Appeal of Danger
“The Dakar is incredibly tough. A normal person would probably dream of doing it once, do it, and then never come back. But if you do well one day – especially on a tough day – well, it’s a great feeling. We come back for the adventure and the challenge.”
“We just accept the danger. There’s a lot of risk. You do drive blind sometimes, you do take chances and push limits. I’ve never talked to Dirk about it. Life is full of risks, and danger is just a part of it.”
No Restroom Breaks
“I once drove a 420-mile stage on the Dakar. That one took 11 hours to finish. Temperatures in the cockpit were 60 degrees Celsius, the air-con couldn’t cope.”
“Then, even in that heat, if you drink a lot you won’t just sweat it out. We can’t stop for a toilet break, and you don’t want a full bladder, so we wear a nappy. The mechanics wouldn’t thank us for just going in the seat.”
“When you’re moving so fast, for so long, crashing through dunes and the like, the heat just builds up. You just psych yourself up and keep moving. If you’re moving, you’re getting closer to the finish.”