The Dakar Rally is the off-road equivalent of the Isle of Man TT, both claiming titles as the “world’s most dangerous” races. Both events push competitors to the limits of both physical and mental fatigue, and put motorcycles through a beating unknown to most non-racers.The 39th edition of the Dakar Rally begins the 2017 motorcycle racing season, and it’ll be the most grueling Dakar yet. The 2017 Dakar Rally will take riders nearly 5,500 miles through three South American countries: Paraguay, new to Dakar, Bolivia and Argentina. This will be accomplished in 12 stages (days), with only one rest day in between stages six and seven. The toughest stage will be nine, which will take the riders over 600 miles from Salta to Chilecito, Argentina.
In 2017, Paraguay becomes the 29th country that the Dakar Rally has visited, and also the fifth in South America.This year 146 motorcycles have entered the Dakar Rally, including the sole American, Ricky Brabec on the Monster Energy Honda CRF450 Rally. This will be Brabec’s second year of racing the Dakar Rally.Donning the number-one plate will be the Red Bull KTM 450 Rally piloted by the 2016 Dakar Rally winner, Toby Price. He became the first Australian to ever win the Dakar Rally, and the first rider to ever win a rally on his second attempt.Price’s win was also the 15th-straight Dakar Rally victory; the last non-KTM to win was the BMW F650RR piloted by France’s Richard Sainct in 2000. Throughout the past 15 Dakar Rally wins, the now-retired Marc Coma and now-car racer Cyril Despress claimed 10 wins (each earning 5).Joining Price on the 2016 Dakar Rally podium was KTM’s Stefan Svitko of Slovakia, who finished over 39 minutes behind, and Husqvarna’s Pablo Quintanilla of Chile.As for America’s Brabec, he finished ninth during his debut Dakar Rally last year. The feat was achieved shortly after recovering from breaking his neck during a stateside racing accident in June 2015.“The biggest challenge for me is just trying to improve on my ninth place from last year,” Brabec says about this goals for 2017 Dakar Rally. “I was just getting a feel for the race and seeing what I was able to do. This time, in 2017, we have a very solid team and all of us can push towards the front.”Coma is now Dakar Sporting Director. Speaking of the 2017 Dakar Rally challenges, Coma says: “The route of the 2017 Dakar preserves rally-raid traditions, with a physical challenge that will push the competitors into the world of extreme endurance: 7 selective sections will be over 250 miles with one of more than 310 miles.The rally will be spent 6 days at more than 3,000 meters above sea level. The balance of difficulties can be illustrated by a double upward trend: the level of difficulty will increase just until the rest day, then a second increase in power will be necessary, to reach one’s ideal level for the ‘Super Belén’ (stage nine). Nothing will be decided until the very last special stage at Río Cuarto.”Here in the states, NBC Sports will provide broadcast coverage of the 2017 Dakar Rally. A schedule has yet to be released, though expect hour-long recaps the night following each stage.
2017 Dakar Rally Motorcycles Preview: Top 15 Starters
*from how they finished in 2016 Dakar; number is also plate number. Those missing (7 and 13) are not starting the 2017 Dakar Rally
1. Toby Price, Australia: Red Bull KTM
2. Stefan Svitko, Slovakia, Slovanaft Rally Team KTM
3. Pablo Quintanilla, Chile, Rockstar Energy Husqvarna
4. Kevin Benavides, Argentina, Monster Energy Honda
5. Helder Rodrigues, Portugal, Yamalube Yamaha Official Rally Team
6. Adrien Van Beveran, France, Yamalube Yamaha Official Rally Team
8. Gerard Farres Guell, Spain, Himoinska Dakar Team KTM
9. Ricky Brabec, USA, Monster Energy Honda
10. Armand Monleon, Spain, Duust Rally Team KTM
11. Joan Barreda Bort, Spain, Monster Energy Honda
12. Juan Pedrero Garcia, Spain, Sherco TVS Rally Factory
14. Matthias Walkner, Austria, Red Bull Factory KTM
15. Michael Metge, France, Monster Energy Honda
16. Sam Sunderland, Great Britain, Red Bull Factory KTM
17. Paulo Goncalves, Portugal, Monster Energy Honda
This week, Senior Editor Nic de Sena rides the all new Ducati Monster. Big changes have been made by Ducati–has the company ruined the considerable heritage of the iconic Monster–or are the changes worth it? In the second part of the show, we chat with Nick Ienatsch, Founder and Head Instructor at the Yamaha Champions Riding School. He says: “We aim to change your riding life by introducing you to Champions Habits: The techniques, approaches, skills, and the mindsets of the best riders in the world. These Champions Habits are the foundation of safety and consistency to whatever speed you ride, in any venue on any bike. Street riders, this is just as much for you as track riders. The best way to make safe riders is to make good riders.“ We hope you enjoy this episode!