Friday, January 4, 2008

2008 Dakar

Once again the engines are about to roar to life, albeit Far, Far, Far Away in a distant galaxy, known as Africa. As it’s time once again for the most grueling race in the World, the Dakar Rally. This year’s Rally begins on January 5th in Lisbon, Portugal and finishes on January 20th in Dakar, Senegal. The 15 stage race has been extended a further 1,000+ kilometers (621 miles) this year to add further torment to the competitors, with an overall distanced of 9,273 km. (5,762 miles).

Once again, Robby “Dirt Mann Gordoun” will spearhead Team Dakar USA’s challenge with his “Monster” Hummer H3, his third consecutive effort to tame the sands of Mauritania. This year Ron Bailey has joined forces with Gordon to form a two vehicle Monster Hummer effort.

Yet Gordon, Bailey and Team Dakar USA will face an uphill battle to become America’s first ever winner’s of Dakar, racing against mostly European based teams.

These “Across the Pond” contender’s will have the luxury of extra time to prepare, while Gordon’s entourage needed to depart a month prior to the start. Team Dakar USA left Gordon’s shops in California to transport the support vehicles, loaded with all the spare parts and equipment, as the massive amount of “Heavy Metal” was trucked across the country to Savannah, GA where it met an awaiting freighter, which then departed for Lisbon.

As usual, it appears that the top two contenders for overall honours will be the Factory backed squads from Mitsubishi and Volkswagen., Defending Dakar winner “Mister-Bitchy” returns with four Pajero Montero Evolution MPR13s, while VW will have a quartet of Touareg 2 TDI’s attempting to win the event overall.

Mitsubishi will have defending winner Stephane Peterhansel as their lead driver, as France’s Peterhansel is always a threat for the overall victory. He first won the event in 1991 on a Yamaha motorcycle, eventually claiming six overall victories in the two wheel category. Peterhansel has since then won a further three Dakar’s aboard Mitsubishi Pajero’s (2004-05, 07) for a total of nine Dakar titles.

Volkswagen will see ex-WRC Champion Carlos Sainz leading their charge, with Mark Miller and Ralph Pitchford (USA/South Africa) as part of the VW line-up.

There will be 31 “Roses of the Sands” contesting this year’s event, thus seeing the Dakar’s largest number ever of Female contestants in the rally’s 30 year history. Even more impressive will be the four competing in the two wheel category.

And what do retired Formula 1 driver’s do for fun? Well, just ask Jordan Grand Prix refugee Tiago Monteiro, who’ll be making his Dakar Rally debut this year, in a single seater buggy-no less!

Tiago Monteiro:
"It's an ultra marathon. It's Yvan Muller's fault, he never stopped talking to me about it the whole year, and he convinced me to take part."

Of course you’ll be unable to see any “Live” television coverage of this event, or even worse, any TV coverage at all! As SPEED is still busy blastin’ us with hours of USELESS Programming. Can you say PINKS??? Of course, if we’re lucky and Nicole Manske isn’t busy changing hair colours, perhaps she’ll give us a two minute recap on The Speed Report. Otherwise, you’ll have to scour the internets for any worthwhile information of daily race progress.

Isn’t it funny how the “CAR” class is mostly contested by SUV’s and Pick-em Up truchs!
2008 Dakar Entry List