It’s that time of the year – Christmas is over, New Year is almost done and the Dakar Rally is about to begin.
What is known as the toughest motorsport event in the world is back for 2022 in Saudi Arabia. Twelve gruelling stages, over 12,000 km through some of the toughest terrain in the world and the promise of more sand than you’ll ever imagine – that’s the Dakar!
Around 500 vehicles and over 800 competitors have registered for this year’s event, 143 of which are motorcycles.
Drivers, riders and support teams have been making their way to Jeddah now for weeks, all hoping to conquer the desert.
But for some, their Dakar dream has been shattered even before they made it to Saudi Arabia – derailed by positive COVID tests and travel restrictions.
Andrew Houlihan, one of three Australian riders competing this year, had his travel plans disrupted because of the COVID outbreak in Europe.
“It’s like last year, COVID is rampant over here”, he told us from Greece. “Our travel plans have gone to s@#t as Greece is now classified as a red zone and we are struggling to find a way out”.
Houlihan left Australia in mid December with his wife Katie, and headed firstly to Spain and then on to Greece to spend time with some of the people who supported them during Andrew’s recovery from an incident in the 2018 Hellas Rally.
After then spending Christmas in Switzerland, Andrew, Katie and the rest of the Nomadas Adventure Coca-Cola Racing Team are now settled into the bivouac in Jeddah preparing for the rally.
Fellow Australian and former winner, Toby Price, has extended his contract with the Red Bull KTM factory team for another two years despite showing a serious interest in racing on four wheels. After crashing out in Stage 9 of last year’s event while running second, Price has one thing on his mind and that is to win the Dakar for a third time.
“I am excited to have signed for another two years with the Red Bull-KTM team. It’s a real family for me and a home away from home”, Price said. “I hope I can repay the trust they put in me by winning a few more titles.”
Daniel Sanders is the third Australian rider in the 2022 Dakar Rally. He showed spectacular form last year coming fourth overall as Price’s Red Bull KTM teammate. He switched to the GasGas factory team for this year, and placed 3rd in the FIM World Championship behind Adrien Van Beveren and Mathias Walkner.
“I didn’t have the best preparation before my first Dakar because of a shoulder injury in December, but fortunately, I recovered quickly. To finish 4th was incredible.”
“Being the ‘face’ of GasGas in rallying is great.”
Let’s hope that face doesn’t get the same treatment as last year when he was famously stung by a bee!
The Dakar Rally begins on Saturday (local time) and the format for the first day is a little different to last year. The Prologue we’re used to seeing has been replaced by Stage 1A which takes competitors from Jeddah to Hail and consists of a 595 km liaison with a 19 km special.