Carole Nash
Content Writer
Published: 10th January 2018

The world’s toughest race kicked off this week, and has already claimed a victim of leading Brit, Sam Sunderland in the early stages.

As the race gets in to its stride, we take a look at some of the reasons why the Dakar remains the world’s most gruelling bike race.


Dakar Rally


This toughest of motorcycle races takes in over 5000 miles of tough, mostly desert terrain, over two weeks, making it one of the ultimate events for any motorcyclist. In recent years, security issues in north Africa has seen the event move from its spiritual home and usual finish point in Dakar, the Senegalese capital, to South America.


Sam Sunderland - Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Racing - Dakar Rally 2018


  • This year’s edition, the 38th, runs from Lima, in Peru, to Cordoba, in Argentina, via Bolivia and is the 10th to take place in South America. It’s a fascinating race, as we discovered when we uncovered these 10 facts you may not be aware of. Know some more Dakar facts? Let us know.
  • The Dakar rally was the brainchild of French desert racer Thierry Sabine, who ran the event from its inception in 1979 until his death, in a helicopter accident, in 1986.
  • The first Dakar rally took place in 1979. It ran from Paris, to Dakar in Senegal and Frenchman Cyril Neveu won the motorcycle category on a modified Yamaha XT500.
  • As well as motorcycles, the rally also has classes for cars, ATVs and quads, as well as the trucks which provide support for the factory racers.
  • Alongside the main motorcycle class, the Malle Moto category is regarded as the toughest challenge for riders. Competitors in this class are not allowed support crews and must do all servicing and repair work on the bikes themselves. All eyes are on Brit Lyndon Poskitt in the Malle class.
  • Frenchman Stephane Peterhansel is the greatest Dakar competitor of all time. He won the bike class six times in the 1990s, before switching to cars. He has taken seven further wins in the car class, including back-to-back wins in 2016 and 2017.


Stephene Peterhansel 1995 Yamaha


  • Current regulations see bikes restricted to 450cc. This is a far cry from the factory 900cc monsters that were commonplace in the 1990s. These were outlawed for 2003, following a number of serious accidents at the turn of the century, and the current capacity of 450cc was introduced in 2011.


Dakar van beveren


  • Austrian manufacturer KTM has won the race every year from 2001 to 2017.
  • Sam Sunderland became the first British rider to win the race in any kind of vehicle, when he won the 2017 edition, from Peru to Argentina.
  • The evolution of the current adventure bike can be traced to the early days of the Dakar rally. Honda’s Africa Twin and Yamaha’s Super Tenere are both named in honour of the manufacturers’ respective successes in the 1980s, while BMW GS derivatives won the event four times between 1981 and 1985.




  • The minimum budget required for a privateer to do the Dakar on a shoestring is in the region of £50,000, to cover bike preparation, entry fees, insurances, travel, spares and living expenses. A total of 167 motorcyclists were entered in the 2018 Dakar.