The ceremonial start of the rally “Dakar-2019” took place in the Peruvian capital Lima on January 6. Eleventh South American and forty-first rally in general, the rally-marathon will be held on the territory of one country – Peru. Mostly the race route is laid in deserted areas and dune sections will comprise about 70 percent of the route. After the start in Lima, will follow 10 stages with a rest day in Arequipa on January 12. The total length of the route is 5,600 kilometers, almost 3,000 kilometers of which are special sections. On January 17, the rally-raid finishes in Lima.
The race start traditionally attracts a large number of local spectators and the organizers decided to spare the public from the daily heat: the podium ceremony was scheduled for the evening of January 6, and the start of the first special section on the route Lima – Pisco for the next day – the morning of January 7.
Celebrations were organized in the area of Magdalena del Mar right on the picturesque coast of the Pacific Ocean. Alive corridor of spectators was warm welcoming the recognized leaders of the Dakar truck classification the Russian KAMAZ-master crews – Eduard Nikolaev, Airat Mardeev, Dmitry Sotnikov and Andrey Karginov, performing under 500, 502, 514 and 518 race numbers, respectively.
Apart from the “Blue Armada” other Russians have applied for the Dakar as well. The crews of Vladimir Vasilyev, Denis Krotov, Sergei Kariakin and Aleksander Dorossinskij will take part in the car category. Anastasiya Nifontova and Dmitry Agoshkov will take part in the bike category of the race.
The start ceremony was pretty much out of the planned schedule and in the parc fermé (parking zone for race vehicles with limited access) gathered a decent number of racers waiting for the “go-ahead” to move to the podium. Drivers passed the time in communication and research of competitors’ cars.
“Strong rivals are always an intrigue and an additional interest in the race, it adds excitement and motivation,” said Eduard Nikolaev, answering journalists’ questions about whether he is scared of such a strong team of contestants in the truck category and, first of all, of the star composition of Gerard De Rooy’s team.
De Rooy himself explained his return to Dakar with the desire of sponsors and fans, and also exclusion of Bolivia and Argentina from the race program this year, which landscapes are not exactly for rally-raid in his opinion. Gerard is still a fan of Africa, and in this sense, the Peruvian race menu consists of loose sands inflated in January and extreme sizes of the dunes which he is fond of: “Yes, we have a strong team and we certainly came to fight for the podium”.
Another rival of Russians is the Czech pilot Ales Loprais, responding to a question about goals and plans for the race, tactfully answered in the spirit of “Man proposes, but God disposes”: “Dakar is extreme conditions, a lot depends on good luck, the truck may not withstand, but, of course, we will try to do our best to show a worthy struggle”.
Pilot of KAMAZ-master Team, Andrey Karginov, returns to the Dakar after a compulsory break due to the injury. During the recovery period, his crew managed to win in July and September parts of Silk Way Rally-2018. “We are impatient to immerse ourselves into the race atmosphere as soon as possible. Of course, I like the greeting of the public and starting celebrations. This is very important, but the real sport will begin in the Peruvian dunes. Here it is necessary to hold a balance between passion and cold calculation. In the sands it is impossible to go completely without mistakes, but wins the one who makes them less”.
On January 7, the race contestants will have to overcome the first stage towards Pisco, at the length of 331 kilometers, with a relatively short 84-kilometer speed section.