With names like Loeb, Peterhansel, Al Attiyah, Carlos Sainz or Nani Roma; The 2019 Dakar Rally (January 6-17) presents a luxury poster, in a shorter edition than usual and that exclusively hosts Peru, for the first time a single country in 41 years.
“It will be the Peru-Dakar,” the country’s ambassador to France, Álvaro Soto, joked in Paris this Tuesday at the presentation of the race.
Mainly due to the austerity policies in South America, Bolivia and Argentina (2018), Paraguay (2017) or Chile (2015) left…. Peru is the only country on the continent that remains faithful to the test.
“It will not be a worse Dakar,” promises race director Etienne Lavigne to AFP.
«It will be an extraordinary edition. This year they have to face very difficult terrain, which requires very good physical preparation. Dunes and sand are very technical elements ”, he explains.
On the menu for the 334 registered vehicles; ten stages, 5,000 kilometers, of which 3,000 are special for a 100% Peru race, but also 100% sand.
– ‘Passages in the sea of dunes’ –
“With the sand, we go to the heart of the Dakar DNA. The origin of the Dakar legend was the Sahara, its dunes, its great masses of sand … Now we return to these elements », says Lavigne.
«The Peruvian geography is a great esplanade between the Pacific and the Cordillera, this promises ten extremely demanding days for all competitors, it will be shorter but harder. More demanding and with less time to make a difference, “he adds.
To win in Lima on January 17, you will have to “know how to go through the dunes”, but also overcome the competition in a “very technical” program.
Most of the recent winners will be in the test: the Spanish Carlos Sainz (2010, 2018) and Nani Roma (2014), the Qatari Nasser al Attiyah (2015), the South African Giniel de Villiers (2009), as well as the French Stéphane Peterhansel (13 victories between 1991 and 2017, 6 on a motorcycle and 7 on a car) and Cyril Despres (2005, 2007, 2010, 2012, 2013 on a motorcycle).
“Behind any dune, two meters beyond, it is enough to get stuck and lose the race,” said Sainz during the presentation, who will compete with a new team, X-Raid Mini JCW Team.
“It will be a stressful context until the last day,” adds Roma.
Peterhansel, a great legend, warns sailors: «It is very easy to make mistakes, you have to know how to read the terrain, understand it, shorter does not mean easier. In the sea of dunes you have to find the good passages ».
– ‘A tenor race’ –
There will also be another French legend, Sébastien Loeb, a nine-time world rally champion but never a Dakar winner. In three participations his best result was second place in 2017. He arrives injured after having to withdraw in the fifth stage last year, when he was thrown in the middle of the Peruvian desert.
«I didn’t even look at the route before deciding that I was coming back. I return with a team with which I do not know how it will turn out. I come to enjoy, I always liked the dunes, if I wanted speed I would continue in the World Rally Championship “, he said.
Following Peugeot’s retirement, he returns as a private driver, dreaming of becoming the first independent to be crowned since Jean-Louis Schlesser in 2000.
«The great tenors of the discipline are here, those who have marked the history and reputation of the Dakar… Peterhansel, Despres, Sainz, Al Attiyah, de Villiers… They have all won at least once. They return for victory with different vehicles. This Dakar 2019 will be a race of tenors, of specialists ”, insists Lavigne.
“They contribute a lot to an even more demanding career. It is stronger in terms of competition and uncertainties. They all have strengths and weaknesses that they have to manage. In ten days like these, they will have to make a difference quickly, there are many legitimate pretenders to victory, “he concludes. AFP