A double dose... of fun
The routes of the second stage will send the motorcycles/quads and the cars/trucks in different directions several times, a configuration that has many advantages but calls for advanced multitasking skills on the part of the organisers.
Argentina is a treasure trove for anyone who admires great open spaces and atypical landscapes. After travelling up and down the country for six years, David Castera has discovered all sorts of canyons, breathtaking ridge trails... enough to keep the former motorcycle rider in awe. A desire to share these gems was one of the factors in the Dakar deputy director's decision to separate the special into a course for motorcycles and quads and another one for cars and trucks: "I know drivers and riders like variety, and technical courses offer new ways of making the race selective. For example, narrow and somewhat brittle, challenging tracks call for a different set of skills. It makes the race interesting and the drivers and riders like it. This year around, this configuration will allow us to break an altitude record, at over 4,300 metres, the highlight being a jaw-dropping climb which will leave unforgettable memories, that's for sure. The most beautiful part will come after the rest day, as the race makes its way through Bolivia. It's logistically impossible to bring the entire rally down there, but the motorcycle and quad riders will live an awe-inspiring experience on the Uyuni Salt Flat."
The other major advantage of separating the courses is that it reduces the risk of accidents, especially in the first week, when more vehicles can be found on the course during the day. "Several factors are at play here: narrow terrain, early race nervousness... Anyway, it can be difficult for the different categories to coexist when too many people are overtaking one another. Reducing the frequency of such situations makes these stages even safer. Motorcycle riders don't need to be afraid and everyone can be more relaxed", explained David. Therefore, five of this year's specials have been entirely separated, representing a total of about 2,000 kilometres, or 40% of the route.
The price of this relative increase in safety is a logistical nightmare that kept David Castera busy throughout the year. "The amount of work to be done at the beginning is obviously twice as big when we set up two specials in two different places. But what makes it really difficult is the fact that we cannot extend all our resources, even though we have increased their numbers [another helicopter, 4 more CP vehicles and 4 additional medical cars]. For the organisers it's much more difficult to run five double stages than to add five stages to the rally! Fortunately, the usual configuration has a built-in margin that helps us react to any development. We use part of this margin for double stages and, above all, we try to use our resources as ingeniously as possible".