Race preview: 2013 Dakar Rally
SA CHAMPION RETURNS: With a new 2013 Dakar-tuned Toyota Hilux, Giniel de Villiers and Dirk von Zitzewitz hope to improve on their third place in the 2012 edition.
LIMA, Peru - The 2013 'Dakar' will use a new course stretching from Lima, the capital of Peru, to Santiago in Chile. Tthis the 35th race will set off from the Pacific coast in Lima for the first time in its history.
The route will cover more than 8000km along the former stomping grounds of the race which has not been used since it came to South America in 2009.
Peru's geography means drivers and crews will face giant dunes at the start of the race. Chile will set the stage for the first duel in the desert and, after crossing the Andes, Argentina will test contenders' stamina with gruelling stages.
San Miguel de Tucumán will give entrants an opportunity to catch their breath on a rest day, eight days into the race. The city will also host the start of the longest stage in the rally, just before the dunes of Fiambalá and Copiapó.
Only a minority of the drivers/riders have a realistic chance of getting their hands on the trophies awarded on the finish podium opposite the Palacio de la Moneda. The list of favourites is much longer in all categories since the previous race in January 2012.
BIKES AND QUADS
Among the motorcycles, the long-running hegemony of the Cyril Despres/Marc Coma duo could be challenged by the new official Honda team and its rider Hélder Rodrigues who finished on the bottom step of the podium after the previous two Dakars.
With Paulo Gonçalves, Joan Barreda and Jordi Viladoms, Husqvarna is also aiming high. Yamaha will use the talents of Frans Verhoeven, Olivier Pain and David Casteu. The teams previous leader David Frétigné returns.
The 2013 Dakar rally will also see a record 38 quad riders.
GOOD LUCK, GINIEL!
In the wake of the 2012 race win with Mini's Stéphane Peterhansel, X-Raid is fielding a star-studded team including Nani Roma and Krzysztof Holowczyc. Rulebook amendments may have changed the state of play and it’s unclear if the team will have an edge over the promising Toyotas of SA's Giniel De Villiers and Lucio Álvarez (third and fifth in 2012, respectively).
Much less is known about the buggy designed in the USA by and for Nasser al-Attiyah who is banking on the surprise factor after he invited his friend and rival at Volkswagen, Carlos Sainz, to join him. Among those making a comeback, Guerlain Chicherit and his SMG buggy are ready to step into the fray.
Big names who underperformed in 2012 are also back in the fight for top places, including Guilherme Spinelli (Mitsubishi), Christian Lavieille (Dessoude) and Matthias Kahle (Mercedes).
In the truck category, the Ivecos of Team de Rooy handed the Kamazes their first defeat since 2007 in 2012 and are hoping to build on this success with defending champion Gerard de Rooy, Hans Stacey and Miki Biasion.
Ales Loprais and his Tatra are capable of outperforming Eduard Nikolaev and his team mates.
The 2013 Dakar will run from January 5-20, 2013 and Wheels24 will update the news and images every day of the way.