For the third consecutive year, the Dakar will go through Argentina and Chile, covering 9,500 kilometers, 5,000 of them timed.
With this kind of challenge, the Repsol motorcycle Dakar team is making all last-minute preparations for the event set to start this Saturday, Jan. 1, and run until Jan. 16.
Repsol features some of the finest Dakar motorcycle riders, including Marc Coma, Laia Sanz and Jordi Arcarons.
Coma has become one of the most referenced Dakar riders, due to his wins in 2006 and 2009, and his recent victory in the 2010 World Championship, which was his fourth in his career. He will surely be the center of attention.
In a Dakar edition marked by a change to the regulations, which limits engines to 450cc, it will be vital not to make any riding or navigation mistakes in order to aspire to victory.
In this respect, Coma’s Dakar experience will be one of his main weapons. In the saddle of the KTM 450cc, developed over the last few months, his biggest rival on the track will be, as in previous editions, Cyril Despres, as well as riders like "Chaleco" Lopez (Aprilia), David Casteu (Sherco), his old companion Jordi Viladoms or Helder Rodrigues (Yamaha).
Along with Coma, the spotlight will also be on Sanz, who will make her debut in this edition. The multiple World-Trial Champion will take part in the legendary raid rally for the first time and to do this, she has been preparing thoroughly over the last few months in the saddle of a Honda.
The aim of this Repsol Dakar rider is to finish the race, complete all the stages and get as much experience as possible navigating the South American tracks and deserts.
An adventure in which she will have the invaluable support of Jordi Arcarons, who will be back in the saddle of a bike seven years after he last participated in order to accompany the young Dakar rookie.
He will do so at 48-years old and with 16 editions as a Dakar rider and another six as manager of the Repsol KTM team under his belt, in which he achieved three victories along with Marc Coma and Nani Roma.
Marc Coma says: "We are approaching the Dakar race with a lot of determination and energy, so I hope we can reap the benefits of all of the effort we have put in throughout the season."
"The new regulations – as regards unifying the cylinder capacity and navigation – will make the rally a very interesting challenge for all riders because there will be more equality among the different makes taking part and the differences between riders will be significantly reduced."
"The navigation, under the new regulations, will make things even more complicated for everyone and I think that final success will lie in being extremely consistent and not making the slightest mistake."
"We have done around 50,000 kilometers in order to develop the new KTM, focusing on reliability, without neglecting speed. The Dakar bike has proved to be very fast and consistent, so I hope that we can celebrate many successes together."
Laia Sanz says: "Taking part in the Dakar has been my dream since I was very little. For years, whenever I bumped into Jordi [Arcarons], I told him that I would love to race it one day and it seems that the day has come. I’ve been competing in trial for many years and this is an incentive and a new challenge."
"I think that doing new things can be very good for me. However, you are never sufficiently prepared for a challenge like the Dakar and for that reason, we have been working hard and now I’m focused on this challenge. My aim is to finish because it is a very tough race and I don’t have the experience."
"At the moment, I’m not thinking about any result other than finishing all the stages and preparing for future editions. The navigation is a completely new aspect that I have had to learn. Jordi [Arcarons] designed a comprehensive training plan and I hope its results will be seen in the race."
Jordi Arcarons says: "Laia is a very talented and strong sports person, as well as very competitive. So far this year, she has progressed very rapidly and when I see her on the bike, I see a future champion in the ladies category but also a girl who in the very near future could compete with the boys."
"My job consists of training Laia and advising her so that she can compete with good race management and strategy. The best way to do this is to be with her in the competition and therefore, I decided to get back on the bike and return to active competition."
"After fifteen editions of the Dakar in moto, another in cars and six as manager, now is the time to take on a new role as Laia’s shield. My mission will be to go behind her and check if she has passed at each checkpoint or be on hand to help if she has any problems. This rules out me doing my own race."
"That is not the aim: I’m only going to help Laia to fulfill her dream; although that does not mean that I’m not dying to tackle a navigation stage, which is what I do best. I was also very motivated to take part in the rally since it moved to Argentina and Chile and this will be a very good way of doing so."