For the first time in its
history, the world’s toughest off road racing championship Dakar is visiting
Paraguay and is all set to launch its 2017 edition from its capital Asuncion
for a sole and single stage with a 39-km special. Thus, Paraguay has become the
29th country to welcome the Dakar, boasting a superb setting with lush
jungle-like vegetation favoured by a tropical climate.
Edition 39 of the Dakar (2 – 14 January 2017) will be contested in
three countries. Following Paraguay, which will make its debut on the Dakar
route, will be a long stay in Bolivia before the rally moves on to the mixed
terrains of its most loyal South American host country, Argentina.
Paraguay has already gotten a
taste of rally-raid action with the Desafío Guaraní. But now it will experience
the thrill of the big send off and the delight of getting to offer its
encouragements to the competitors for this 9,000km journey, half of which will
consist of unprecedented routes and tracks.
Following a short detour into
Argentina, the rally will head towards Bolivia, for the fourth consecutive
year, with a much more in depth exploration of its different regions. With five
stages in Bolivia, the riders and crews will face off for example on the shores
of Lake Titicaca, and will enjoy the rest day (at nearly 4,000 metres above sea
level) in the highest altitude capital city in the world, La Paz.
The second week will take on
an Argentinean accent of twists and turns and contrasts in terrain. This will
be the ninth visit by the Dakar to Argentina. The unwavering loyalty of the
country’s supporters will, once again, help riders and crews reach the ultimate
objective of their adventure. The third capital city on the 2017 route, Buenos
Aires will host the finish of the rally for the fifth time.
With 55 competitors, Argentina
is the third largest delegation in the rally and has a chance to take the title
in all the categories. Argentina has been a long-time and loyal Dakar host. In
2017 it will welcome the rallyraid for the 9th time, but it will also feature
some new territories. Among the 12 provinces to cross, the competitors will
discover the Chaco and will daydream about the finish line in Buenos Aires over
Apart from France and Senegal,
few countries can say they have hosted nine consecutive editions. Quad racer,
Daniel Mazzucco for example, has an impressive track record (7 Dakars, 4
finishes) but he is not boasting. “This will be my eighth participation. I am
one of the Argentinean veterans. But I have the impression that it will be
particularly difficult this year, with having to deal with the altitude in
addition to the length and the usual constraints. I can’t do anything else than
take it one day at a time”. Aware of the magnitude of the challenge, Mazzucco
and his fellow Argentineans in the rally know very well how tough it will be.
The arrival podium, which will be held for the first time in front of the
Argentina Auto Club on January 14, will be reached kilometre after kilometre!
“This year, the Dakar will visit its 29th
country and Paraguay awaits us for ‘Una Fiesta Fenomenal’ “, said an
enthusiastic Etienne Lavigne in opening the presentation conference for the
2017 Dakar, while his Sporting Director Marc Coma promised all the adventurers
“the toughest edition in the history of South American rally raiding”. And it
is indeed a Dakar of contrasts that is looming on the horizon in January. The
competitors will set off from Asunción under a tropical climate and heat in
excess of 40° Celsius, then confront negative temperatures a few days later…
for those who press on during the night on the Bolivian Altiplano. The thermal
amplitude will be mainly the consequence of the rise in altitude that the Dakar
will experience, leaving from sea level to reach nearly 5,000 metres. After
several incursions near Uyuni since 2014, now the competitors are being offered
a proper exploration of Bolivia. Including the rest day at La Paz, the riders
and crews will stay in the high mountains for a full week. Physical and
mechanical management to the atmospheric changes will be among the parameters
to take into account. But the weeding out process will be based on, above all
else, the essentials to rally-raid success: navigation aptitude, to which more
attention should be paid with the modifications made to the guidance system,
consistency, put to the test with six special stages of more than 400kms, dune
crossing and driving in sand, especially on the sections of the route still
unknown to rally-raid regulars or during the all-important “Super Belen” stage,
three days from the finish line in Buenos Aires. The programme of revelry
announced by the organisers plunges the contenders for the various titles into
a new phase of preparation.
In the bike category, Toby Price on his KTM is
the favourite, but newcomers from last year have continued to impress during
the season, whether it is Kevin Benavides (Honda) or Adrien Van Beveren
(Yamaha). In the car category, the Peugeot Dream Team has remained intact, but
to go up against Peterhansel, Loeb, Sainz and Despres, Toyota was particularly
busy on the transfer market. In addition to Giniel de Villiers, the Hilux
Pickups will be driven by two-time winner Nasser Al Attiyah (2011 and 2015) and
by 2014 Dakar champion, Joan “Nani” Roma. The Minis from Team X-Raid will try
to add a fifth trophy to their collection case with Mikko Hirvonen, 4th on his
debut in 2016, but they will also have “Orly” Terranova as well as Yazeed Al Rahji,
while American superstar Bryce Menzies will look to make a sensational
breakthrough into the world of rally-raid. And in the truck category, Gerard De
Rooy will once again have his Argentinean team-mate Fernando Villagra, who
joined him on the podium last January, but Kamaz will try to return to their
winning ways with Ayrat Mardeev and Eduard Nikolaev. Ales Loprais could create
a surprise with a Czech team and Tatra that allowed his uncle Karel to win six
2017 Dakar: The stages
03/01: Resistencia-San Miguel
de Tucuman (ARG)
04/01: San Miguel de
Tucumán-San Salvador de Jujuy (ARG)
05/01: San Salvador de
06/01: Tupiza-Oruro (BOL)
07/01: Oruro-La Paz (BOL)
08/01: Rest day at La Paz
09/01: La Paz-Uyuni (BOL)
10/01: Uyuni-Salta (ARG)
11/01: Salta-Chilecito (ARG)
12/01: Chilecito-San Juan
13/01: San Juan-Río Cuarto
14/01: Río Cuarto-Buenos Aires
Source: Dakara 2017 Media room
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