2018 DAKAR PART TWO by Leon Botha


This is one event where you do not dare say that a specific person will or even worse “can not” win.

I gave it a good thought during this week and asked myself the question – “what would you do, if you spent in the region of R4m (excluding the vehicle you use) to do this event?”

The reply was rather unexpected – “I will not even go and spectate if they paid me that sort on money let alone suffer for two weeks, digging out a car every 30m, changing wheels a few times a day, get covered in a spray of sand when you try to push a car out. Suffer from heat stroke, a lack of sleep, a broken back, off fingers – and a divorce when you get back because the wife was unaware of the thousands of lady fans!”

The four million is not a joke – most of the rest also not.

Just think about poor Matthieu Baumel who got car sick after about 15kms on day two. Just imagine what it is like trying not to puke in the car over the guy who still has to pay you for your services – for 252 kilometers.

First stage from Lima to Pisco, Peru

This event is not for the faint hearted.

The speeds they travel – mostly guessing where they are on the road and having to read hundreds if not thousands of dunes day after day – while you climb so fast above sea-level or drop down again like a rock. This has an effect on car and crew. The driver has a bit of an advantage while the navigator gets around 10 000 surprises over the event – not expecting to go up, down or sideways without warning.

The accidents are not bumper-bashers – they are almost all spectacular highspeed stuff.

Then – another fact is – if you are not French – you are in trouble.

There is a story going around – I am truly not going to try to find out the reals facts – as you should not allow the whole truth to spoil a good story – like my late friend Lappe Laubscher used to say.

The use of automatic tyre inflating system was apparently banned and then unbanned, but only Peugeot knew about it – yes, it seems far-fetched but then stranger things has happened in favour usually of the French teams participating. A chopper flew a little too long one year leading Giniel for a while – the dust caused him to lose time while he was fighting for the lead.

Without the inflating system the Toyotas are at a disadvantage. They did indeed lose tyres when they jumped off the rims after the teams had to deflate them for sandy sections and then hit solid rocky patches.

On day one the Peugeots bluffed everyone in thinking that the cars were not that quick – then suddenly showed their real speed the next day and nothing could keep up since.

So after 6 stages on paper it looks as if the Peugeots of Peterhansel and Sainz will be able to fend off the three Toyota behind them.

The surprise to me so far was the Dutchman Ten Brinke who is currently lying in third spot albeit 53m31s behind Sainz.

His team mate Al-Attiyah is however within easy reach in Dakar Terms and needs only 3m39s to take over the podium position from ten Brinke.

Giniel has a very steep mountain to climb – as he is trailing Al-Attiyah by 11m39s. Then again on the Dakar 10 and 20 minutes are lost in the blink of a sand-filled eye! One miscalculation – one wrong step and “puff” says the dragon.

The second part opens with a marathon run through stages 7 and 8 – that is 923kms WITHOUT any service between stages 7 and 8.

Believe me when I say Al-Attiyah and even Giniel can still win this event because of this – Giniel must be the guy to place money on to get through unscatched.

Stage 7 has 302kms open section – then 425kms stage at an average altitude of about 3000m before the crews will have to enjoy a night without their service crews working and rebuilding the vehicle.

The one advantage for real rally drivers is that they will encounter firm and fast roads to Uyuni. Sainz will probably shine here.


The secret will be to enter the second part (Stage 8) from Uyuni to Tupiza with a strong car.

On Sunday SS8 they will encounter serious altitudes reaching 4800m just before control point five – once again a Peugeot “turbo” benefit.

The Toyotas are lighter, less restricted and stronger this year, but alas, that is simply not good enough when the air is so thin you can breath through your ears. I am not sure when Toyota will get upset enough and build a bloody car that can pulverise whatever is going to replace the Peugeots.Remember this is their final Dakar before they go play on the racing tracks.

SS8 is the second part of the 923km marathon stage and they talk about sand and dunes, but the analysis says the route contains 15% sand, 75% hard surface and no rocky areas.

Stages 7 and 8 will be the semi-final or divider – someone used the term separating wheat from the chaff, but I will pay good money to see him call any of the top ten “chaff” even after a few top drivers put paid to their chances.

STAGE 9 TUPIZA TO SALTA 513km open section and 242 Stage.

On this stage there is no sand, 76% soil and 24% rocky areas.

The problem on Monday will be the many “rios” of various sizes. Navigation through river crossings(rios) has always been testing and the teams will have to concentrate like hell.

Altitude ranges between 3200 and 4200m – again not ideal for the Toyota team.

STAGE 10 SALTA TO BELÉN 424km and 373 Stage

Highest point 2600 with some unknown dunes over a sandy plateau.

Once again the river crossings will be the challenge and teams will be able to make use of their service crew when they cross the latter’s route to Belén. This in their own time of course – so this little gift will only be opened in emergencies!

75% sandy, 9% hard surface 8 rocky and 8% vegetation.

STAGE 11 BELÉN/ Thambala/ Chilecito 467km open section and 280 stage.

70% sand, 15% hard surface and 15% vegetation

There is only only climb to 2500m near the end while the rest of the route hovers around about 2000m.

If it is very hot the surfaces will be loose and the teams goes through the toughest spots in Argentina.

Finishing positions on this stage will be crucial as the fastest 25 teams will leave the next morning in mixed format, bikes, cars and trucks – that could be testing because the bikes are a bit vulnerable against cars but the trucks scare the hell out of anything else.

STAGE 12 FIAMBALA/ CHILECITO/ SAN JUAN. 348km open section and 375 Stage

The altitude climb over the first 150km will be up to 3600m then the route goes steep down to around 600m.

Plenty “Rios” over very twisty river beds, serious navigation.
27% sand, 65% soil and 8% rocky

Long enough to make a big difference in the results.

STAGE 13. San Juan to Cordoba 560 open and 369 stages.

Wonderful to know that typical to the stage number – crews will have the luck of the draw to either land slap bang in the notorious fesh-fesh or miss it.

For those of you who don’t know what this is, Fesh-fesh is like walking in the street and suddenly stepping into a huge hole filled with baby-powder. Now you see me, now you don’t.

No real altitude problems here – highest 1600m

60% soil, 10% rocky and 30% vegetation.

This is mostly know WRC terrain (Rally Argentina) and Sebastien Loeb will truly regret his cockup even more – knowing that this was where he could have made up. Sainz, Al-Attiyah, Prokop and Hirvonen will feel at home.

STAGE 14 Finalé

After about 8000 kms the crews will wake up on Saturday with “only” 120 stage kms left to do.

All under 1400m 100% solid roads but….there will be more than 30 river crossings

So celebration and a sip of “Fernando” the Cordobeser’s national cocktail will have to wait until the engines are switched off in parc ferme!

Dakar Rally – 2018 Peru-Bolivia-Argentina Dakar rally – 40th Dakar Edition – January 6, 2018 – People observe the departure ceremony in Lima, Peru. REUTERS/Mariana Bazo


TOYOTA’s chances?

In fairness to the drivers – if we look at possible overall wins, I do believe that Peugeot was determined to make a very fancy exit from the Dakar. Loëb messing up was not part of their plan, but a 1-2 against the Toyota onslaught will do very nicely “mercy beaucoup”

BUT … there is that Sainz factor. If the King decides he wants to win this one, then Peugeot may have an unwanted French/Spanish war on their hands. Peterhansel will not take team orders and neither will Sainz.

So, Al-Attiyah may just be lucky and pick up the overall spoils. Giniel will be close behind, but he will be worried about his perfect finishing record rather than burst a calve stepping too hard on the petrol pedal.

Prokop in the Ford will be closing gaps and will probably finish very close to Giniel, except if the latter has a clean run from here.

I love the fact that ten Brinke is holding his own in serious company, but he is slightly out of his depth. My rating of his chance on a win was so far out, I almost owe him an apology 30/1 has dropped to 12/1 and I will even bet a few Rand on a podium finish.

I will again try to update you every day, but I am very busy trying to re-establish Rallystar at the wonderful venue at Sun Carousel. You guys will all love this new development and I trust that you will all support us.

Please look out for the article on the all new Rallystar. – we need you to join us and for you to get all the benefits we offer.

Thank you for reading my contributions.

Leon Botha



Positions after SS6

  1.  Peterhansel Peugeot 16h25’02”

2.  Carlos Sainz Peugeot +27’10”

3.  Ten Brinke Toyota +80’41”

4.  Al-Attiyah Toyota +84′ 20″  trailing Ten Brinke by 229s

5.  Giniel Toyota +95’59” trailing Al-attiyah by 639s

6.  Przygonski Mini +145’16”

7.  Prokop Ford +145’52” trailing Przygonski by only 36s

8.  Quassimi Peugeot +149’06”

9.  Amos Buggy +170’58”

10.  Sireyjol +205’35”

13. Hirvonen +293’46”

14. Alvarez and Howie Toyota +312’37”


31. Vaculik Leading rookie +724’52”

32. Hennie de Klerk Amarok +737’01” Chasing Vaculik formRooike prize – FANTASTIC!