Get to grips with the unforgiving terrain of the 2012 Dakar Rally with our own Red Bull Roadbook. Part Two of the roadbook heads over the Andes Mountains, through the heart of the Atacama Desert before reaching the Pacific Ocean...
Stage 6 – Fiambalá to Copiapó – Friday, January 6
El Paso de San Francisco high up in the Andes Mountains has become a real fixture of the Dakar Rally in recent years. Once again the Dakar enters Chile via this pass as competitors scale the highest point of the race before getting their breath back for the challenges that lay ahead. With the dizzy altitude of 4,700 metres above sea level behind them, stage six takes the race into the Atacama Desert. Tactical racing rather than sheer speed is what’s required to avoid the desert sandtraps. Mechanics wait nervously in the bivouac well aware that not all vehicles will make it past this point.
Stage 7 – Copiapó to Copiapó – Saturday, January 7
The traditional loop of Buenos Aires to Buenos Aires has been scrapped for the 2012 Dakar but the route stills features the mini-loop at Copiapó. A mammoth timed special stage of over 400km takes the Dakar on a tour of Chile’s mining heartland. Stage seven brushes past the place where 33 miners were trapped underground for 69 days in 2010. The less experienced contestants would be well advised to bunch up and employ the philosophy of safety in numbers while out in the dunes. The navigation on this stage is so tough the organisers keep the finish line open until 6pm the next day!
Stage 8 – Copiapó to Antofagasta – Monday, January 9
After a much-needed rest day, those competitors left standing are now faced with a whopping 477km of timed special stage on route to Antofagasta. Racers will no doubt enjoy cruising along with their backs to the dunes of Copiapó as they tackle the stony track to the Pacific Ocean. Competitors would be advised to bring along a few cans of Red Bull on stage eight as there will be little moisture in the air. The region of Antofagasta averages one millimetre of rainfall per year and scientists suggest that absolutely no rain hit the area between 1570 and 1971. At least an umbrella is one piece of kit competitors can forget about!
Stage 9 – Antofagasta to Iquique – Tuesday, January 10
Competitors will be timed over 556km divided into two sections on what promises to be a fascinating encounter along Chile’s Pacific coastline. The first half of the day plunges the field into a terrain characteristic of Chile called fesh-fesh. Dakar folklore tell tales this powdery sand seeming to leap from the ground to cover entire vehicles. Those making it through the fesh-fesh can look forward to an exciting climax to the second half of the timed stage. Bikes, quads, cars and trucks will approach the bivouac from a 2,300 metre high dune that drops sharply to meet the Pacific Ocean. Last year’s car category winner, Nasser Al-Attiyah clocked up a top speed of 220 km/h while coming down the side of the dune.
Stage 10 – Iquique to Arica – Wednesday, January 11
While the waves roll in on some of the best surf beaches in the world just a few kilometres away the 2012 Dakar Rally will continue to kick up sand in Atacama Desert. Once again the threat of the perilous fesh-fesh trapdoor opening to consume vehicles will be a feature of the day. Making it this far will be a massive achievement for the majority of competitors but for those near the top of the leaderboard the games are only just beginning. Vital seconds will be won and lost and even the smallest navigational mistake at this point can make all the difference.
Word From The Waypoint
“Ever since the Dakar Rally has been staged in Chile we have been enjoying a great time with motorsport. Every year the crowds come out to watch the race, their enthusiasm for the competition is as important as anything we can do as competitors. It has been a privilege for to race in front of these fans and give them some moments of pleasure along the way. From the Andes Mountains, through the Atacama Desert and along to the Pacific coastline, my country has all the tough terrain needed for a Dakar Rally. I just hope I can get all the way around this year so I can experience it all again.
Chaleco Lopez – Chilean biker & 4-time Dakar Rally stage winner