The Dakar Rally is in trouble. A new edition of the once toughest rally in the world has ended in Saudi Arabia and the winner in the car category We have known for more than ten days: Nasser Al-Attiyah. But that has only been the least of the problems of a Dakar that is no longer a challenge or a challenge.
The softening drift of the Dakar has crossed several dangerous red lines in the 2022 edition. The location in Saudi Arabia should be in doubt for reasons other than political and moral, and partnering with the FIA to create the world of raids it has only meant that finishing the Dakar is no longer an achievement.
Saudi Arabia no longer gives for more neither in landscapes nor in route
Saudi Arabia no longer gives for more. The feeling after the third edition of the Dakar held in the Middle East is that the Saudi country has run out of tricks. The landscapes are constantly the same, without reaching the variety let’s not say about Africa, but about the much-maligned South America. Many are already missing Argentina, Chile, Peru, Bolivia and company
But the problem is not only landscapes. The route is insipid and the stages are monotonous. Gradually the Dakar has gradually become a speed test instead of prioritizing navigation. It is a dynamic that has already begun in South America, but has accelerated dramatically in Saudi Arabia.
The feeling is that Saudi Arabia does not give for more. What we have seen in these three editions is all there is, and continuity in the Middle East will depend more on petrodollars that they can release the leaders than of pure sporting interest. Furthermore, ASO, now with the ever invaluable help of the FIA, is at the mercy of the competitors.
If there was a passable Dakar in Saudi Arabia, that was the one in 2021. Without reaching the heights of Africa, not even those of South America, that edition did provide some navigation, and, therefore, of intrigue. The stages were moderately entertaining for fans, but some drivers complained about their hardness. The result is the infamy we have experienced in 2022.
The worst thing about this edition is that the route has not only been the smoothest in memory, but also the hardest stage was the first, while the last week has been a plague of looping stages without a hitch that has kept the classification unchanged. Once the initial screening is done, red carpet for everyone to arrive in Jeddah.
— DAKAR RALLY (@dakar) January 12, 2022
ASO’s commitment to speed as a substitute for navigation in the Dakar is evident, and they even brag about it on their networks. But it is still curious that top speed is limited to 180 km/h, which prevents marking differences even in this aspect. Whoever wants to risk more, either with their driving or with the design of their vehicle, can do so up to 180 km/h. And that is until Audi presses to lower it even more in the face of 2023, so that its electric technology can be competitive.
The value of finishing the Dakar in 2022 has been equivalent to zero
Although if there has been something that has really been bloody for the Dakarians, it is the policy of rejoining the race. Since some years the ‘Dakar Experience’ already existed, which allowed the drivers who had to abandon in a stage to continue the rally, although without any presence in the classifications. It was just living the adventure to the end.
If that already raised some controversy, what has happened in 2022 is a scandal. With the excuse of the raid world championship, and the consequent association of ASO with the FIA and the FIM, the merit of finishing the Dakar has had as much value as zero. Road routes, skipping stages and penalties as abundant as they are useless. That is the new position of the Dakar.
As an example, a button. Stéphane Peterhansel had an accident on stage 1B, which ultimately decided the entire Dakar. His Audi was left lying with the left rear suspension ripped off. After arduous hours of repair, ‘Monsieur Dakar’ returned to bivouac on the open road, skipping the rest of the stage.
No, Peterhansel did not commit any wrongdoing. In the new Dakar concept, this action is valid, or at least allows you to continue in the rally with a 17-hour penalty that seems ridiculous to you if you have already lost five in repair. Peterhansel’s chances of winning the Dakar had also run out.
Just as it is true that Carlos Checa, who was shining in his first Dakar, capsize in the third stage, could not repair his car on time, skipped the fourth and fifth and came back in the sixth like nothing. A rider who has skipped two stages and has not been able to finish another will count as having finished the Dakar! It is insane.
Like these two examples there are handfuls in an ignominious Dakar. And the worst thing is that many of them have ended in stage victories. peterhansel finally took a win partial in the second week, when he had already returned by road to the bivouac on a couple of occasions. On motorcycles it has happened more than once.
Danilo Petrucci, former MotoGP rider, debuted on the Dakar a couple of stages after the helicopter swept away his KTM. Kevin Benavides won the stage this past Thursday, who was fighting for the final victory until his KTM stalled in the previous stage, that of Wednesday.
— DAKAR RALLY (@dakar) January 6, 2022
The case that most rejection provokes is that of Seth Quintero in light prototypes. The American driver was the big favorite for the final victory in the category, but he had to retire in stage 2 due to mechanical problems. Thanks to these new regulations, he was able to rejoin the race and has broken the record for victories in a single edition.
After leaving, Quintero has achieved twelve stage victories in this Dakar. That is, he has won all except the breakdown. Technically, it breaks the record for wins in a single edition, which Pierre Lartigue had it in ten since 1994, when a breakdown really left you out and when a lightweight prototype was a car.
This new philosophy is not only going to get many to finish a Dakar that they haven’t really finished, and for Quintero to be in the top 20 in light prototypes even with a ten-hour penalty, but it has meant that more humble riders don’t have a chance to win their stage. in the second week, when the favorites have either abandoned or are playing for victory final.
Stage 1B swallowed all the emotion of the Dakar by car
In addition, luck has not accompanied this 2022 edition to be memorable, at least in the car category. If before starting alone there were three and a half favorites to win, with Sébastien Loeb playing that dubious role due to the unknowns of his Prodrive, after the first stage We are left with one and a half.
That Carlos Sainz and Stéphane Peterhansel were practically eliminated in the first stage it was the finishing touch for the Dakar 2022. But that there was no more stage left in two weeks that could put Nasser Al-Attiyah in some trouble is the responsibility of ASO, David Castera or whoever touches. It is time to act so that the Dakar does not go down the drain of motorsport.
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