Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Paris Dakar Rally
The Paris Dakar Rally (or "The Dakar") is an annual, organized, professional off-road race. The race is currently sponsored by Total and organized by TSO, the Thierry Sabine Organization. Despite its name, it is an off-road endurance race rather than a conventional rally - the terrain the competitors traverse is much tougher and the vehicles used are true off-road vehicles rather than the modified sedans used in rallies.
There is also a Plymouth-Dakar Challenge, organized by an entirely different group of people and restricted to vehicles which cost their owners less than GBP100, with GBP 15 allowed for "race" preparation. The vehicles used here are mostly held together with duct tape.
Most of the competitive sections ("stages" or "specials") are off-road, over dunes, mud, camel grass, rocks, erg, etc; and vary from several kilometers to several hundred kilometers per day.
History and route
The race originated in 1978, a year after racer Thierry Sabine got lost in the desert, and decided this would be a good location for a regular rally. Historically, the rally originally was from Paris, France to Dakar, Senegal (interrupted by a transfer across the Mediterranean); however due to politics and other factors, the course as well as the origin and destination have varied. The last (original start) from Paris to Dakar was organised in 1994. This was also the only time the rally went from Paris to Dakar and back to Paris. Due to complaints of the mayor of Paris the finish had to move from Les Champs-Elysťes to Euro Disney. Due to this reason the organisation decided the rally had to start from other locations in the years to go. The 2002 course was from Arras, in the north of France (160 km from Paris), through Madrid, Spain, to Dakar. The 2000 course was from Dakar to Cairo, Egypt. The 2005 route began in Barcelona, Spain and ended in Dakar.  Early rallies passed through Algeria.
Vehicles and classes
The three major competitive classes of the Dakar are motorcycles, automobiles (from buggies to small trucks) and large trucks. Many vehicle manufacturers use the Dakar as an opportunity to demonstrate the durability of their vehicles, though most vehicles are heavily modified. Originally, mostly European utility vehicles dominated the race: Land Rover, Range Rover, Toyota Land Cruiser, Mercedes Gelšndewagen and Pinzgauer; other manufacturers entered heavily modified street vehicles such as Rolls Royce, CitroŽn, and even Porsche. Recent (2002) examples in the car class include Mitsubishi (Pajero/Montero), Nissan, and Hyundai; Mercedes, Range Rover, and BMW sport-utilities are represented but do not appear in the leader positions. Jean-Louis Schlesser builds a series of custom dune buggy vehicles for the race (and has won with them several times). American ("Baja") style pro trucks make an appearance, but are also seldom in the winner's circle. Trucks (T4 "Camions" or "Lorries") include Tatra, Kamaz, Hino, MAN, DAF and Mercedes-Benz Unimog. In the eighties a strong rivalry between two companies, DAF and Mercedes-Benz, led to vehicles which had twin engines and more than 1000 hp (750 kW). Later Tatra, Perlini and Kamaz took the race up. KTM is the most popular/leading motorcycle; BMW also produces a "Dakar" enduro bike.
At the present, the main competitors in cars are Volkswagen, Mitsubishi and Nissan, at the bikes Yamaha and KTM. After the Millenium change, a renewed competition started at the trucks, with the brands DAF, Tatra, Mercedes-Benz and Kamaz fighting for victory.
- Total/ELF (Petrol distributor)
- Euromaster (tires)
The English television coverage of the rally is narrated by retired motorcycle rider Toby Moody whose distinct accent (especially pronouncing all the foreign names: "Schless-ah", "Shi-no-zoo-ker", "Me-oh-nee") adds to the personality of the race.
In 1982, Mark Thatcher, son of the then British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, his French co-driver Charlotte Verney and their mechanic went missing in for six days. On January 9, the trio became separated from a convoy of vehicles after they stopped to make repairs to a faulty steering arm. They were declared missing on January 12; after a large-scale search, a C130 Hercules search plane from the Algerian military spotted the white Peugeot 504 some 50km off course. Thatcher, Verney and the mechanic were all unharmed.
In 1986, the organiser of the rally, Thierry Sabine , died in a helicopter crash. It was one of the worst years in the history of the rally.
In 2005 Spanish motorcyclist Josť Manuel Pťrez died in a Spanish hospital on Monday, January 10 after crashing the week before on the 7th stage. Italian motorcyclist Fabrizio Meoni, a two-time winner of the event, became the second Dakar Rally rider to die in two days, following Pťrez on January 11 on the 11th stage. Meoni was the 11th motorcyclist to die in the history of the gruelling race and the 45th competitor overall. On January 13, a five-year-old Senegalese girl was crushed beneath the wheels of a service lorry after wandering onto a main road, bringing the total deaths to five.
List of winners
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