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Dakar Rally 08: Tackling the Dakar Rally

Published: 01 January 2008

Updated: 24 November 2014

The Dakar Rally the toughest off-road motorcycle race known to man blasts off from Lisbon on January 5, 2008.

It threads its way down through western Africa and arrives, 15 days and 3,700 tortuous miles later, in Dakar, the capital of Senegal.

Tackling the challenge is the biggest British and Irish contingent of riders since the race began. Only eight years ago there was just one Brit.

This year 13 of them will be racing through the desert on their bikes for fifteen days.

Patsy Quick, the first British woman to finish the Dakar in 2006, is now managing Team Desert Rose a team of ten British Dakar rookies.

Patsy Quick said: “Dakar is the ultimate motorcycle challenge and the people wanting to do it now grew up watching the race. They’ve reached a time in their lives where they’ve made their money and want to do something they have always dreamed about.

“Plus, I think the publicity Charley Boorman got for his attempt in 2006 created a lot more awareness of the race.”

This year’s Dakar Rally has 550 entries with classes for bikes, cars and trucks. There are 262 bike entries, of which only 150 are expected to make it to the finish.

Each day riders have to compete in a timed special stage, some as short as 14 miles or as long as 385 miles with scary technical sections in some of the most inhospitable terrain in the world.

To reach each special stage the riders have to complete connections stages before and after the specials. 2,196 mileage of connections and 3,562 of special stages.

Some of these stages include road sections through villages and towns where riders and support crews have to stick to very strict speed limits and if anyone is found to have sped they will be fined £200.

If the rider does this three times it means disqualification from the race. If the team support truck breaks the limit then the whole team is disqualified.

All very frustrating when the riders are being overtaken by locals on scooters.

For the third year running the race will start in Lisbon and head down into Spain to Malaga where everyone will be able to rest on the overnight ferry to Nadir in Morocco.

Morocco has been an integral part of the race for 12 years and offers a varied terrain of narrow racks through hills - which will test any trials rider - beaches and sand.

The rally moves into Mauritania where the riders hit the desert for the first time. It’s been on the Dakar route map every year since 1983 and is where navigation skills come into play.

This is the terrain which sorts the men from the boys with the difference between competitors is measured not in seconds, not even in minutes – but hours.

And it catches even the top men out. Dakar legend Cyril Despres went an hour in the wrong direction and lost his chance of victory.

The final country the riders enter is Senegal and they only have one section on their way to the capital city. It gives the finishers a long chance to reflect on their achievements and accept the warm welcome that the locals always give.

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