Endurance will be the key word of the Dakar 2024
By J.B. | Updated November 20, 2023 at 4:56 p.m.
The Dakar 2024 will undoubtedly be more than just fun for the 590 competitors taking part in the race. “We took on the challenge as organizers of designing the fifth edition in Saudi Arabia as the most challenging in this ongoing series,” warns David Castera, the director of the event. The difficulties will indeed be numerous throughout the 7,891 km, including 4,727 km of special stages, spread over twelve stages, from Alula to Yanbu via Riyadh for a long crossing of Saudi Arabia, a playground of multiple facets.
The route of the Dakar 2024. (ASO)
On January 5, after final preparations and the departure ceremony in an XXL bivouac, a “real” 27 km prologue, around this exceptional site that is Alula, will put the competitors directly in the mood. Then the Dakar caravan will head east, with three special stages of more than 400 km and a marathon stage on the evening of January 8 which promise a muscular start to the race. “The Saudi exploration will take detours at the foot of volcanoes, slalom between canyons, cross stony or even rocky tracks,” announces Castera.
“The competitors will find themselves scattered in the desert after dark, cut off from the world before setting out again in the early morning to attack the dunes.” – David Castera, about the “48 hours flat” stage
Then comes the immensity of the Empty Quarter desert. After an introduction on January 10 between Al-Hofuf and Shubaytah, with a short special (118 km) but 100% “sand”, the sixth stage (818 km including 584 special) will take place over two days, in a format “48 hours flat”. “The dive into this ocean of sand will take place this year in a format that is both new and faithful to the spirit of the pioneers,” specifies Castera. “The competitors will find themselves scattered in the desert after dark, cut off from the world before setting out again in the early morning to attack the dunes.”
Immersed in the adventure and almost autonomously, the bikers and crews will be provided by the organization with a tent, a sleeping bag and a food ration. In these summary conditions, they will not be able to receive any outside help and will not be able to communicate with their teams until the following evening.
A tricky journey until the end
After a Tour de France-style air transfer to Riyadh, the rest day (January 13) will therefore be welcome. But nothing will be acquired for all that since the organizer (ASO, property as “The Team” of the Amaury Group) promises that there will be no “no drop in intensity until arrival in Yanbu”, on January 19, with a rocky course and complex navigation. The seventh stage will in fact be the longest of this 2024 edition (873 km including 483 against the clock) and the penultimate day of racing (Alula-Yanbu) will take on terrain which had tortured the tires last year, at the opening of Dakar.
First round of the 2024 World Rally Raid Championship, this Dakar will welcome as usual the elite of the discipline. Double world champions and winners of the last two editions with Toyota, Nasser Al-Attiyah and Mathieu Baumel will defend their title at the wheel of a Prodrive Hunter, where they will be teammates with Sébastien Loeb and his Belgian co-driver Fabian Lurquin before wearing the colors of Dacia next year. Ford will be the newcomer, with a Ranger designed by M-Sport and entrusted to Nani Roma. Deprived of its star driver, Toyota will rely both on experience with Giniel de Villiers and on youth with the Brazilian Moraes (3rd in the 2023 Dakar) and the American Quintero, while private drivers like Al Rajhi, Chicherit or Yacopini could shine at the wheel of Overdrive’s Hilux.
The latest from Audi and Peterhansel?
No change at Audi, with veterans Stéphane Peterhansel and Carlos Sainz, and Swede Mattias Ekström at the wheel of the RS Q-etron E2 hybrid. After two complicated editions, this could be Audi’s last attempt to win the Dakar before turning to F1 in 2026. And it could therefore also be the last participation of a legend, Stéphane Peterhansel, “Monsieur Dakar” and his fourteen successes.
In motorcycles, the fight will rage as usual between the title holder Kevin Benavides (KTM), his world champion brother Luciano (H