The Dakar Rally, the most extreme race in the world, will launch its 44th edition this Saturday, the third on the dunes of Saudi Arabia, in which some 17 Argentine riders will take part, two of them defending champions in their category: the Salta Kevin Benavides (motorcycles) and Manuel Andújar from Buenos Aires (quads).
With a total of 415 registered vehicles, a payroll that may vary minutes before the start due to Covid-19 positives, the competition will run until Friday, January 14, divided into 12 stages, with a total route of 8,000 kilometers (4,300 timed).
Some 143 motorcycles, 21 quads, 97 cars, 99 “Side by Side” (SxS) “and 55 trucks will participate in the symbolic start this Saturday in Jeddah towards the city of Hail, headwaters of stage 1A (614km. Of link and 19km. Of special).
The first Dakar station will be completed on Sunday with 1B, laid out in a loop in Hail with a length of 514km. (333km. Of time). The route of this edition is characterized by the abundance of partial circuits with start and finish in the same place, since there will also be “rollers” in Riyadh (stages 5 and 6), Wadi Ad Dawasir (stage 9) and Bisha (stage 11 ).
“Arena in all its forms and of all colors”, promoted the general director of the race, the French David Castera, in reference to the route of a rally that he also defined as “historic” in terms of ecology.
The 2022 edition will launch the first phase of the “Dakar Future” program, which sets the goal of achieving 100% low-carbon vehicles by 2030.
This energy transition will have two novelties this year: the implementation of hybrid engines in cars and trucks and the installation of an innovative camp for the use of renewable energies.
In sporting terms, the Dakar focuses Argentine attention mainly on two divisionals. The Salta Benavides will assume his sixth participation with the challenge of keeping the title with a new team: the Red Bull KTM Factory.
“There was no driver who has won the Dakar and immediately changed teams, I am the first in the history of the competition. And those are the things that motivate me: to win it again with a different brand, “he said in a recent interview with Télam.
Benavides, 33, won last year with the official Honda Monster Energy team and became the first South American champion of the specialty in history.
Since the most extreme rally left Europe and Africa, to start its stage in South America (2009-2019) and Saudi Arabia (since 2020), there was no motorcyclist capable of winning it with two different brands. Before, it was the French Cyril Neveu (Yamaha and Honda) and the Italian Edi Orioli (Honda and Cagiva) who set this precedent.
In the pursuit of his goal, the Salta player will face serious contenders for the crown such as his teammates, the Australian Toby Price and the Austrian Matthias Walkner; the four from Honda, the two from Yahama and the pair of the official Husqvarna team, which makes up his younger brother Luciano (26), present in four previous editions.
Among the Argentines in the motorcycle category there are also the Buenos Aires de Acevedo, Joaquín Debeljuh (KTM), the Riojan Diego Llanos (Husqvarna), and the Mendoza Diego Noras (KTM) and Matías Notti (KTM), who are going for the feat of arriving to the goal.
The quads division, with a marked Latin American tradition, will be made up of 21 riders, among which the Buenos Aires Andújar (7240 Team) stands out as defending champion and top seed after having won all the races held in 2021.
The Lobos rider, a Boca Juniors fan, will face his fifth rally with the threat of the Chilean Giovanni Enrico and the Argentine nationalized-American Pablo Copetti.
The Buenosairean from Sáenz Peña, Carlos Verza, who will pilot a Yamaha of the Verza Rally Team, and the rookie from Mendoza Francisco Moreno, with a Yamaha of the Dragon Rally Team, complete the “albiceleste” list of a category that has three other Argentine champions: Marcos Patronelli (2010, 2013 and 2016), his brother Alejandro (2011 and 2012) and Nicolás Cavigliasso (2019).
In cars, the Mendoza Orlando Terranova (X-Raid) will go for his 16th. participation in the Dakar without interruption (twice he was fifth). His native Lucio Álvarez (Toyota Hilux) will do it for the eighth time, while Juan Cruz Yacopini will participate with a truck of the same make, navigated by his father Alejandro, and Sebastián Halpern from Buenos Aires will use a Buggy from the MINI X-Raid team.
The SxS category will have the Spanish-Argentine Fernando Álvarez Castellano, Pablo Macua from Santa Fe and David Zille from Pampas.
In his eleventh appearance at the Dakar, Juan Manuel Silva from Chaco will get on a division truck for the first time.
The «Pato», today sports director of the Honda Super TC2000 team, will have as navigators of his MAN truck from Wevers Sports, the Spanish Pau Navarro and the Argentine Carlos Mel Banfi.
The 44th. Dakar edition will be integrated into the World Rally Raid Championships of the International Automobile Federation (FIA) and the International Motorcycle Federation (FIM).
The 2022 season will be completed with the rallies of Abu Dhabi in March, Kazakhstan in April, Andalusia in June and Morocco in October.