Today marks 40 days until the 40th Dakar Rally, a staple of the traditional racing offseason but a hallmark of racing in January. The 2018 Dakar, which runs from January 6-20, will air on NBCSN. Specific coverage details and air times will follow at a later date.
This year’s rally covers Peru, Bolivia and Argentina, starting in Peru’s capital of Lima, working its way to La Paz, Bolivia for a rest day January 12, and will finish in Córdoba, Argentina.
Defending champions in the two primary categories are Stephane Peterhansel (cars) and Sam Sunderland (bikes), with Eduard Nikolaev (trucks), Sergey Karyakin (quads) and Leandro Torres (UTVs) having also won their classes.
Dakar’s website hosts a number of unique videos to showcase the history of the event over the 39 previous runnings, a handful of which will be posted on NBCSports.com over the coming weeks.
One such example is below from 1982, as brothers Claude and Bernard Marreau won overall in their Renault 20.
After the first three runnings in 1979, 1980 and 1981 that were just listed as Paris-Dakar Rallys, the 1982 Dakar was Paris-Algiers-Dakar.
The rally has been held annually since 1979, with the exception of 2008. In 2009, the rally took part outside of Europe and Africa for the first time, and ran in South America.
Peterhansel is going for his third consecutive overall win in cars. The Dakar legend has 13 wins, split six in motorcycles and seven in cars.
Peterhansel is part of the Peugeot runners in cars this year. Carlos Sainz, Sebastien Loeb and Cyril Despres are the other key Peugeot drivers, joined by Dakar rookie Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi.
Nasser Al-Attiyah, the 2015 Dakar winner, leads Toyota’s charge with Giniel De Villiers and Bernhard Ten Brinke among others.
American Bryce Menzies, who withdrew from last year’s Dakar due to injury, is set to run this year’s for MINI. Other MINI drivers of note include Nani Roma, Mikko Hirvonen and Orlando Terranova.
Ford has Martin Prokop leading its charge.
Sunderland leads the bike contingent for KTM along with fellow riders Matthias Walkner, Gerard Farres Guell, Toby Price and Stefan Svitko.
Adrien Van Beveren is one of Yamaha’s top riders along with Franco Caimi.
American Ricky Brabec won his first Dakar stage last year and is one of Honda’s top riders, and also won the Sonora Rally last spring. Other Honda riders to watch include Joan Barreda, Paulo Goncalves and Michael Metge.
Husqvarna, Sherco TVS and Gasgas are other motorcycles in the field of note.