The first week of the race is turning out to be very extreme, with continuous shocks and daily alternations
The debate about which Dakar was tougher is back in fashion, but there is no discussion about the hardness and demand that this test of authentic madness requires
The Dakar is probably the toughest, most demanding and most complex race in the world of motorsport and its 45th edition endorses it. The facts and the alternations in the classification follow one another at a dizzying speed. This first week is being more extreme than expected. Long stages, with many kilometres, sand, stones and, to put everyone to the test, a strong storm that forced the cancellation of part of the third special due to flooding. And notice to boaters: Ahead are the imposing dunes of the second week that can become quite a spectacle.
You cannot compare the Dakar that took place in Africa with the one in South America or the current one in Saudi Arabia. The times change. The machines have evolved, the technology has advanced in an unimaginable way and also the pace of the race, with which I consider that the comparison does not take place. Neither the third stage of this edition was the toughest in the history of the race, nor are the current drivers ‘children’ compared to the adventurers of four decades ago.
The Dakar has its times. The original is the African one, without a doubt, because that is where the legend was born. I remember stages in which at night no pilot had arrived at the remote camp lost in the immensity of the desert and ASO neutralized stages to regroup its participants. The assistance was reduced, we all moved in tents and the forced restoration was the ranch of the organization. Communications were totally controlled and talking on the phone or sending a fax cost an arm and a leg.
In South America, where long connections had to be endured -more than 500 km- with sub-zero temperatures, hotels and the first motorhomes appeared. He increased the speed of the race, alternative routes for assistance, discovering Wi-Fi and social networks, while the comforts increased by establishing the majority of bivouacs in large cities.
Saudi Arabia has undergone a new transformation. The speed had to be limited because the pace was brutal, to navigate you can only use the help offered by the organization, the long links have largely disappeared and the motorhomes have grown like mushrooms. The hardness is maintained, but it is different. There are greater facilities, but we find this in all sports, although this does not mean that the Dakar has ceased to be a dream, a unique and unforgettable adventure.
The third stage, which had a timed 447 km, was affected by rain, hail, cold and wind that left unusual scenes to a test not used to this type of weather conditions. ASO neutralized it at km 378 due to the poor condition of the route and because the adverse weather conditions prevented the helicopters from flying. The halfway point of a test that promises strong emotions has not yet been reached.