It's all systems go for Dakar 2019 as crews gather in Lima in final preparation for the epic ten-day race through the dunes of Peru starting Monday 7 January 2019 with an 84km special stage on the run from Lima to Pisco.
Tuesday will bring the first big test, with 342km of racing from Pisco to San Juan de Marcona before a 331km stage to Arequipa on Wednesday and then a marathon stage with no servicing between Days 4 and 5 after 351km of racing at Tacna Thursday evening. The bikes then race 345km from Moquegua and cars 450km from Tacna back to Saturday's rest day at Arequipa.
Racing resumes Sunday 13 January with the bikes racing 317km and the cars 290km to San Juan de Marcona, before a 323 km loop around the San Juan de Marcona dunes on Monday and then 360km back to Pisco Tuesday, a 313km loop around Pisco Wednesday and then the final 112km blast to Lima on Thursday 17 January.
Dakar may be four days shorter this year, but ten days in Peru takes more effort than fourteen days normally does — Toyota has for example ordered the same amount of fuel as it does for this dune-heavy Dakar as it did for a more conventional race in the past. Talking about Toyota, South Africa’s Gazoo Hilux team has entered three cars for SA Dakar hero Giniel de Villiers, Qatari Nasser Al Attiyah, and Dutch driver Bernhard ten Brinke.
Further local car interest will come from Dakar rookies, multiple special vehicle champion Shameer Variawa and Zaheer Bodhanya and their locally developed SVR Red Lined Nissan Navara. There is also great South African interest on two wheels as multiple SA Enduro champions, Kenny Gilbert (Husqvarna) and Botswana rider Ross Branch (KTM) both make their Dakar debuts in Peru, while Stuart Gregory will tackle the no-service Malle Moto bike class on a KTM and Sean Berriman is riding shotgun in a MAN truck.
Mini has signed recent Dakar-winning factory Peugeot refugees Stephane Peterhansel, Carlos Sainz Sr and Cyril Despres to drive its three buggies, while Seb Loeb returns aboard a privateer Peugeot and Robby Gordon is back with a Textron Off-Road XX buggy. Czech Martin Prokop is always a factor in his Ford Raptor and do not ignore the fleet of 4x4 Minis including cars for Pole Jakub Przygonski, Argentine Orlando Terranova and Saudi flyer Yazeed Al Rajhi and Russian Vladimir Vasilyev and Lithuanian Antanas Juknevicius head the privateer Hilux charge.
KTM is out to continue its incredible two decades of uninterrupted Dakar success with works men, Austrian Matthias Walkner, Aussie Toby Price, Spaniard Juan Pedrero Garcia and Brit Sam Sunderland. Among the many keen to stop the KTMs are Honda trio Portuguese Paulo Goncalves, Spaniard Joan Barreda Bort, American Ricky Brabec, Yamaha’s Frenchmen Adrien Van Beveren and Xavier De Soultrait, Husqvarna mounted Chilean Pablo Quintanilla and Frenchman Adrien Metge on a Sherco.
The quad race is all about Yamahas with Argentinian riders Nicolas Cavigliasso, Jeremias Gonzalez Ferioli and Carlos Alejandro Verza the standout trio, while Can Am remains the brand to beat in Side by Sides with Brazilian Reinaldo Varela, Chileans Gustavo Gugelmin and Juan Carlos Vallej, Spanish bike refugee Gerard Farres Guell and American Casey Curry among the entry list.
Dakar would not be Dakar without the trucks and the Russians are back with Eduard Nikolaev, Airat Mardeev and Dimitry Sotnikov chasing even more glory for Kamaz. They will have Iveco trio, Dutchmen Gerard De Rooy and Ton Van Genugten and Argentine Federico Villagra, Czech drivers Martin Macik’s LIAZ and Ales Loprais and Martin Kolomy in Tatras, Dutch driver Martin van den Brink’s Renault to keep them honest in the dunes.
Dakar 2019 runs exclusively in Peru with the emphasis this year on the desert and the dunes making sand racing an essential skill.