The story of the first Dakar Rally begins in 1977, with Thierry Sabine a Frenchman lost in the Libyan desert during the Abidjan-Nice rally. Alone and stranded and having lost his compass, he ventured out into the vastness of the desert hoping to stumble across someone and be rescued. He wandered in the dessert sucking on small stones to keep his mouth moist and praying for rescue. On January 14th, 1977, Sabine was rescued by the race organizer, Jean-Michel Sine who had set out by helicopter to find him.
Sabine had spent 3 days and nights lost in one of the most remote places on earth. But while lost amid such desolate surroundings with nothing but his shadow to keep him company, an idea had begun to form in his imagination. When he returned to France the idea quickly began to grow into a plan.
Thierry Sabine wanted to share the immensity of that desert with as many other riders as he could. He would go on to create the most challenging, dangerous, and legendary motorsport event on the planet. The Paris to Dakar Rally.
For the first Dakar Rally he coined the phrase:
A challenge for those who go. A dream for those who stay behind.
To win here is an achievement unrivaled in the racing world.
You don’t just win Dakar; you survive it.
It didn’t take long for the race to catch the attention of automakers, sponsors and fans. For the next three decades, the Dakar Rally became the ultimate off-road sport. Many who participate are adventure seekers. Moreover, car manufacturers often use the rally to test new vehicles. Teams participate in four categories: trucks, autos, motorcycles and quads.
The Dakar Rally takes weeks to finish and crosses thousands of miles through three countries. To the racers Dakar is more than a race, it’s a state of mind.
The Dakar Rally is considered by many to be the most dangerous, most difficult, and most grueling race on the planet—and for good reason. It’s a vicious race that puts a whole new spin on the phrase “To finish first, you must first finish.” We aren’t just talking about vehicles making it to the end, but people, too. Twenty-eight participants have perished since its inception and dozens more have narrowly escaped the same fate in pursuit of Dakar glory.
The punishing race would start in Paris and end 10,000 kilometers (6,200 miles) later, in Dakar, the capital city of Senegal, in West Africa.
Dakar Rally, where drivers must withstand soaring temperatures while navigating some of the most difficult off-road terrain known to man.
The Dakar Rally is more than just a physical challenge. Drivers must navigate their way from checkpoint to checkpoint in the ‘orienteering style’ race, hitting speeds of as much as 110 miles an hour on off-road terrain. 50pc of entrants drop out; those who don’t come prepared or who can’t read a map simply don’t finish. This is a race for high-functioning endurance athletes.
The first thing you notice on the (off) road is the heat. Although the temperatures can drop to freezing when high up in the mountains, for the most part, it’s stupidly hot – maxing out at 45 degrees Celsius. In fact, it’s so hot that the drivers lose an average of 5 litres of sweat a day, whilst in the process burning 5,000 calories. To say that it’s hard work is an understatement.
ROUTE OF THE FIRST DAKAR RALLY
first Dakar Rally
Start: Dec. 26, 1978 from Paris
Finish: Jan. 14, 1979, at Dakar
Total Length: 10,000 km
Specials: 3,168 km
Countries: France, Algeria, Niger, Mali, Upper Vota, Senegal
170: vehicles Start
74: Vehicles Finish
90: Motorcycles Start
34: Motorcycles Finish.
First fatal accident of the Dakar Rally.
A young French expat named Patrice Dodin was approaching the start of the stage with his helmet unbuckled. He tried to fasten it while riding but lost control of his 500XT. His helmet rolled off and he struck his head on a rock. He was immediately attended by medical staff and airlifted to Paris, but died a few days later in hospital.
The 74 surviving vehicles wrap up the first Dakar with a finale on the banks of Rose Lake. The first kings of the desert are named Cyril Neveu, Gilles Comte, and Phillipe Vassard. Its first queen is Martine de Cortanze. Martine finished in 19th pace gripping the handlebars of a Honda 250 XLS.
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