Often times while watching the Dakar (Da-Kar) you might not really understand what is actually going on. Here is a run down of a comparison between desert racing and Rally Raid racing.
Picture yourself racing every single SCORE race, every single BITD race and a smaller loop race like Battle at Primm. Now take all of those races combined, run them every day (one right after the other) with only one rest day about half way through. If your car made it to the finish in one piece after following all of the general rules, you would have completed the Dakar Rally. Unlike desert racing here in the states, there are no driver changes, no co-rider changes, and no bike rider changes. If your driver gets sick and cannot race, you are out of the race. If your bike rider gets hurt and is unable to finish one of the day stages your Dakar is done.
If you run the SCORE Baja 1000, the sanctioning body is SCORE International. If you run the Dakar Rally the organizing body is the ASO (Amaury Sport Organization). Often times we hear about the ASO and never really understand what they do exactly, lets be frank; they don’t mess around when it comes to rules.
A day before the Baja 1000 you can make your way to the pretty face at PCI and she will hand you a complete Baja 1000 map download that you can program right into your GPS, fresh with hazards, mile markers, and speed zones. At the Dakar the race organizers (ASO) hold a “Briefing” the day before the next stage of the rally and each driver is handed a map, yes a map (those things your parents used to use when you would take a family vacation). A Dakar “GPS” is essentially a digital compass; just enough to help you get to your next check point. For safety reasons every vehicle has a “disabled” GPS, if you in an emergency unlock it you will get penalized.
In the Baja 1000 (or any other desert race for that matter) you allowed multiple pit areas where your crew can set up their chase trucks and prepare for a pit stop. In Rally Raid type Dakar racing; there are no pit stops, your crew cannot pit your vehicle while racing. Only the driver, co-rider or drivers of another vehicle are able to work on the vehicle once the stage starts. That is the reason big Teams get formed so a 2nd, 3rd or 4th vehicle can help out within the stage if needed.
After each stage your team and car will return to the Bivouac, usually located at an airfield located near the end of the sage. A Bivouac is often referred to as “the traveling village”, because that’s exactly what it is. There is a medial staff on hand, media personnel wondering collecting notes of intel, there is a full blown catering facility along with sleeping quarters and restroom facilities among others. The closest thing to compare to what desert racing has is probably Coco’s corner or Rice and Beans, eh it’s something right?
Unlike a desert race where they give you point A and B and you run it at a fast enough pace to finish the race (hopefully ahead of the competition), Rally Raid racing has a bunch of little races built into the big race itself. There are 4 different types of races that take place: Special Stage (aka Selective Sector), Liaison, Marathon Stage and a Loop Stage.
– Special Stage (aka Selective Sector): These stages of the race are run like a desert racing “time trial”; race results are based on the total time of the SS combined. It’s a sprint, run as hard as you can without breaking and the person with the best time wins. Your time on the course counts and no outside help is permitted.
– Liaison: Liaison’s are transfer sections that take place mostly on the highway to get from the Bivouac to the starting line or from the finish line to the Bivouac. Although this isn’t a “race” per say, it is a requirement for your race vehicle to compete this stage in the race in the allotted time in order to keep from getting penalized. The time limits to complete them are set where one can comfortably drive in regular street traffic without breaking any laws. Outside help is allowed.
– Marathon Stage: A Marathon Stage is a stage that lasts two or more consecutive days. After each day of racing, awards are given for the winner of that stage. In the instance of a Marathon Stage, an award will be given after the Marathon Stage is completed (no matter how many days are involved)
– Loop Stage: Loop Stages are exactly what they sound like; they are a stage in the rally in which the race finishes where it started that day. Pretty straight forward much like our loop races here in the states.
Hopefully some of these general rules and terms will help you guys as you are watching the 2013 Dakar Rally. Look for daily write-ups here on the Race-Dezert homepage as well as a new thread in the Rally Raid section of our forum started after each day of the rally.