Time is on his side
There are a handful of Saudi competitors on this edition. Yazeed Al Rajhi is the most well-known among them, but Abdulhalim Almogheera is the nation’s only biker enrolled on the Dakar this year. He is not the first, for Michal Al Ghuneim achieved the feat before him in 2020 and 2021. In fact, last is a more fitting word for Abdulhalim. Since the Start Camp, he has been progressing at a steady and stolid pace typical of a dromedary. Whilst others race against the clock, Abdu is taking his time.
The tandem category!
They wear the numbers 131 and 132, and have remained together throughout the Dakar, both on the track and in the Original by Motul enclosure. Anthony Fabre and Andy Beaucoud are getting ready to complete their great challenge, in a simple and friendly spirit.
The tortoise and the hares
The lone Belgian motorbike rider in the Dakar is racing in Original by Motul. Jérôme Martiny, the incarnation of quiet aplomb, is banking on consistency, a strategy that could hand Belgium an epic triumph.
A lioness back on the prowl
Laia Sanz is THE Dakar legend among women —nay, a Dakar legend full stop, considering that she smashed the glass ceiling in the motorbike category. With 11 Dakar starts on two wheels between 2011 and 2021, including a top 10 finish in 2015, she stands as the sole woman in the history of the rally who has gone toe to toe with her male counterparts. Since 2022, Laia has been racing on four wheels with her sights set on a high-placed finish in the Ultimate class: "I did it on a bike, why not on four wheels?".
Fear at the end of the road
Bruno Leblanc finished stage 9 of his maiden Dakar in a helicopter, one shoulder in a sling. A major disappointment for the fellow who dreamed of crossing the finish line to pay tribute to his mother, who passed away two years ago…
Miroir’s reflections on the Dakar
Jérémy Miroir is one of the three rookies riding for the Fantic team. The Italian brand has selected three young enduro champions: Englishwoman Jane Daniels, Italian Tommaso Montanari and Frenchman Jérémy. All three have been entrusted with getting the constructor’s machines to Yanbu. On the evening of stage 8, Miroir returned to the bivouac towed by Jane. “A real taste of how tough the Dakar can be”.
When ‘cows’ graze on camel grass
With Carlos Sousa in the car race, as well as Ruben Faria and Helder Rodrigues in the bike category, Portugal’s elite competitors have left their mark on the Dakar. Lisbon also hosted the starts in 2006 and 2007 and would have had a hat-trick before the 2008 edition was cancelled... However, Portugal’s history on the Dakar dates back to the race’s beginnings, in 1982 with the enrolment of three UMM, bovine-shaped vehicles made in Portugal with French origins, and in 1983, a ‘white cow’ and a ‘black cow’ returned to the Dakar… This year, four Portuguese competitors have brought them back for the Dakar Classic!
Dromedaries unlike any others
Toyotas and the Dakar go back a long way. Arnaud Delmas-Marsalet has been part of this history in various capacities, as a race driver in the 80s, as a supplier of vehicles for the organisation and now as a preparer for candidates in the Dakar Classic. Three teams have been entered by the Compagnie Saharienne at the wheel of its ‘dromedaries’.
In the desert, water is as rare as it is precious. This year, Amaury Baratin has had bitter experience of this. Having miraculously survived the first week of racing, the rider of KTM #79, who is taking part in his third Dakar, reached the finishing line of the seventh stage literally parched. “I rode 400 km without being able to swallow a drop because the hose on my Camelback was loose,” grumbled the biker.
Camelia Liparoti, a Pink Panther with a dash of black
After nine Dakar starts on a quad and another six in T3 or T4, always draped in Yamaha blue and, especially, rocking her signature pink, Camelia Liparoti kicked off the 46th edition behind the wheel of a Challenger OT3 belonging to Guillaume de Mevius's G-Rally squad. When a door closes, a window opens.
“I’m a fighter”
Javi Vega is on a mission on the Dakar, since 2019. Firstly, for the women who said yes to his marriage proposal on the podium in 2022 and who he had already escorted in 2021 to allow her to become the first woman finisher in the Original by Motul category; and secondly, for himself, in search of the title in this category, which he came so close to achieving last year. On his sixth Dakar, on the evening of stage 6A he dropped down to the position of the last of the bikers, but Jordi has already hit rock bottom before and that is not going to stop him.
The Empty Quarter as a birthday present
She is the third Saudi Arabian woman to take part in the Dakar following Masha Al Obaidan and Dania Akeel. At the age of 37 years, businesswoman and fashion designer Maha Alhamali belongs to the generation of Saudi women who passed their driving tests five years ago when it became possible in the country. In the intervening years, Maha has become one of the best SSV drivers in the Middle East.
Cesare: veni, vidi, vici
There are six bikers at the bivouac behind the handlebars of a Kove, a bike made in China which made its appearance on the Dakar last year ridden by three Chinese bikers who all made it to the finish on the shores of the Red Sea. Four official riders are taking part this year in the Rally 2 class for the brand, Mason Klein is participating in the Rally GP class and Cesare Zachetti with number 49 is among the hardy souls tackling the Original by Motul unassisted bikers’ category. Cesare has come and seen, but what will he conquer?
Racing for Álex and with Álex
"May your passion for life inspire our future". The motto of the Spanish All1 team, displayed on the fuel tanks of their motorbikes, is a tribute to Álex Llibre, who passed away six years ago but lives on in the memories of the six riders who started the rally in AlUla. Now, only five will brave the dunes of the Empty Quarter, including Álex's twin brother, Carlos.
Klein never says die
Others might have thrown in the towel a long time ago, but Mason Klein is hanging on behind the handlebar of an unreliable Kove. The American is determined to keep going, come hell or high water, fuelled by the sheer joy of riding in the wild.
The eye of the Mexican tiger
There are three Mexicans on this Dakar: a biker, as well as Daniel González Reina and Jorge Hernández Calva, who are taking part in their first Dakar in an SSV. The bearded co-pilot looks like a teddy bear, the type of friend that you just have to take along for the ride, despite the fact that he comes with a slight defect: as soon as the sun sets, he snoozes off, quite literally! It is beyond the craziest dreams!
Hard as nails
While all the riders who enrol for the Dakar are warriors, some are more so than others. One such rider is Libor Podmol, the Czech biker who finished stage three with eight stitches around his right eye.
Firemen of the desert
Before breaking into the top 10, Richard De Groot, a volunteer firefighter for 14 years in the Netherlands and founder of the "Firemen Dakar Team", brought the Dakar to life above all through his actions in the name of mutual aid, for the rally competitors and for the worldwide firefighting family.
Close shave for Vincent Biau
Vincent Biau is no stranger to off-road adventures, clocking up half the circumference of the Earth in his yearly escapades, but he thought his first Dakar was going to be over before the finish of the first special.
Cox and De Villiers, the founding fathers
Six South African competitors are taking on the 2024 Dakar on motorbikes and a further six behind the wheel of Ultimate cars. Factoring in Toyota Gazoo Racing, Century, Red-lined and now M-Sport, which crafted the Ford T1+ machines, South Africa is the spiritual home of 30 cars or so, amounting to a third of the field. The rainbow nation's rise to the top of the rally-raid scene is in no small part thanks to Alfie Cox and Giniel de Villiers, who have been bivouac regulars since 1998 and 2003, respectively.
In the Netherlands, they have round cheese, tulips and soon the first 100% female team to have finished the Dakar in a truck. What’s more, the Ladies Team De Rooy has chosen the toughest edition contested in Saudi Arabia to meet the challenge. Anja, Floor and Marije are still going strong with two days left to the finish. Better than that, they have not had a single puncture yet and occupy 13th place in the general rankings out of 40 trucks.
The Englishwoman and her Italian steed
Jane Daniels, in solid form and consistent since the start, is demonstrating stage after stage that she has exactly what it takes to make a name for herself on the Dakar.
3.7 kilometers too many
Both the Lithuanian Antanas Kanopkinas and his quad from the Chinese maker CFMOTO —the sole non-Yamaha in the ten-strong field of the 46th edition— are making their Dakar debut. His big-framed 4×4 mount is a heavyweight in its class. Tipping the scales at 541 kg at the pre-race weighing, it is three times as massive as its competitors! However, a different figure will haunt Antanas for a long time: 3.7. The number of kilometres that will prevent him from becoming a finisher…