The Dakar is a rally raid. It consists of one stage per day comprising at least one "special" each (several hundred kilometres long), on- or off-road. The total distance covered is several thousand kilometres. The event takes place over a period of ten to fifteen days (versus two to three days for cross-country rallies).
The classification of the stage is made up of the times set in the special stage plus any sporting penalties.
The race involves navigation, which is done via a roadbook provided by the organisers and handed out at the start of each stage. This means the course remains a secret until the roadbook is handed out to the crews.
The starting order of each special will be based on the times set in the timed sector of the previous stage, including any sporting penalties (e.g. for speeding in link sectors or missing waypoints) incurred during the stage.
In the case of a tie, the order will be determined by the race numbers.
Any person of any nationality who is over 18 years old and holds an International FIA/FIM Cross-Country Rally licence may apply for entry to the Dakar Rally.
Competitors must also have participated in one FIA/FIM World Championship event or any other event on the FIA/FIM calendar or their national calendar.
The organiser nevertheless reserves the right to refuse entry to any competitor who does not have a minimum of recent experience in competitive motorbike/quad racing or the physical capabilities necessary to compete in the Dakar.
The marathon stage is contested without any support vehicles or team/support members; all outside assistance is also prohibited.
Only competitors are authorised to work on their vehicles; assistance between competitors who are still in the race is also allowed.
Competitors (not including Elite and Priority competitors) who have to withdraw before the finish of the race may re-enter the rally within the three next stages, albeit relegated to a parallel classification. These vehicles will bear orange plates and will in no case be allowed to start in the first 25 positions of a special.
Any breach of the rules whose penalties are not set out will be reported to the Race Director and the International Jury will determine the penalty to be imposed.
Sporting penalties are applied to the times of the timed sectors and the other time penalties are applied to the general classification.
- Competition: administrative or technical non-compliance of the vehicle, defective safety equipment, missed waypoint…
- Road safety: non-compliance with the highway code
There are sporting (time penalties, disqualification) and financial time penalties. Any fines will be paid to a charity.
Bivouac-DSS link sector
The vehicles leave the bivouac, usually on a road, to head to the start of the special, where the first motorbikes set off at sunrise.
Start of the timed sector (DSS)
This is where the clock starts ticking. Competitors usually start in the order of the classification of the special of the previous stage. Failure to make it to the start on time gives rise to the penalties set out in the event rules.
Intermediate times are recorded at several points on the course of the special. Each vehicle's logbook is then stamped by a race official.
Finish of the timed sector (ASS)
The classification of the day is based on the time set at the ASS, pending any penalties that may be applied if GPS analysis reveals, for example, that one or more waypoints have been missed.
ASS-bivouac link section
Although the timed sector has come to an end, the day is not totally over at the ASS, which can sometimes be several hundred kilometres away from the bivouac. The riders, drivers and crews have a certain time to reach the bivouac, always within the speed limits in force in the country.