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« Road to Dakar » Planetary talent spotting

The off-road world looks to the Dakar. In every off-road competition around the planet, a portion of the drivers have the short- or medium-term goal of participating in the January rally. The Dakar organisers are particularly interested in the pool of talent showcased in some of the rallies run in the Americas, Africa, or Asia, for example. This year, five contests were selected by the Dakar Challenge* with a single goal: offer the opportunity to less experienced drivers to earn a pass to participate in the Dakar. In this manner, Argentinian quad driver Jeremías Gonzalez Ferioli got his feet wet in the 2014 Dakar, becoming at Valparaiso the youngest finisher in history (6th) and going on to rank 2nd in the category in 2016.

Road to Dakar

Winners of the 2017 Dakar Challenge who will participate in the 2018 Dakar

  • Amageza Rally (South Africa): Willem du Toit (SAF – Motorbike)
  • Sonora Rally (Mexico): Mark Samuels (USA - Motorbike)
  • Baja India (India): Abdul Wahid Tanveer (IND - Motorbike)
  • Merzouga Rally (Morocco): Maciej Giemza (POL - Motorbike)
  • Toyota 1000 Desert Race (Botswana): Hennie De Klerk (SAF - Car)
  • Baja Aragon (Spain): Oscar Fuertes (SPA - Car)
  • Baja Inka (Peru): Juan-Carlos Uribe (PER - SSV)

(*) Eligibility conditions: have never participated in the Dakar, or ranked among the top 10 in an FIM all-terrain rally, or been on an FIA or ASO “elite” list.



Key points

  • As a talent detector, the Dakar Challenge allows the most promising up and coming rally-raid competitors to win their entry for the Dakar.
  • This year, the selections will be made during rallies held from March to July in Mexico, India, Morocco, Botswana and Spain!

Whatever their speciality, the Dakar attracts competitors from across the off-road spectrum. But in spite of their talent, some of the most promising competitors do not always have the opportunity to take on this adventure they all dream of one day doing. The Dakar Challenge was precisely created to allow them to experience their first exploit in the sand at the highest level of the sport. On several highly reputed events in the world of rally-raid, a “race within the race”, reserved for the least experienced, thus the youngest entered, offers the possibility of a free entry on the Dakar. Previous selections have brought emerging talents to the forefront, such as Jeremías Gonzáles in the quad class on the 2014 Dakar, or Kevin Benavides, 4th in the bike category in 2016, followed by Franco Caimi, 8th this past January after having won his place on the Desafío Ruta 40.

This year, the prospects are equally enticing, with a promotion whose first laureate will be selected in Mexico on the Sonora Rally. The last winner of the Baja 1000, Mark Samuels is now among the favourites to win his ticket for the 2018 Dakar. The following ticket for the Dakar should be equally contested on the maiden edition of the India Baja, where the followers of “CS” Santosh and Aravind Prabhakar, the first two Indians on the Dakar, are already in the starting blocks. The Afriquia Merzouga Rally, where Adrien van Beveren starred before making an eye-catching debut in the 2016 Dakar, will also be an event to spot talent. And the four-wheel competitors will have their chance to shine on the Botswana Kalahari Toyota 1000 Desert Race and the Baja Aragón, which will also make their debut on the calendar.

Dakar Challenge season: