Between 1979 and 2007, competing crews on the Dakar Rally – in cars and trucks and on bikes – charged through the Sahara Desert en route to the Senegal capital. And the appeal of reaching the west African coast ahead of the rest attracted many of the world’s greatest drivers during that time – from Formula 1, the World Rally Championship and the World Sportscar Championship.
Following security issues in 2008, when the event was cancelled, the Dakar moved away from Africa and into South America for 2009. Purists were briefly aghast, but the legendary name remained, as did the extreme challenge facing drivers and riders. The Sahara became the Atacama and the Atlas Mountains became the Andes.
In the 37 editions to date, one of racing’s greatest all-rounders, Grand Prix and Le Mans hero Jacky Ickx, did the business for Mercedes in 1983, double World Sportscar Champion Jean-Louis Schlesser made it two in a row in 1999 and 2000 in a self-built, Renault-powered buggy and three aces – Hubert Auriol, Stéphane Peterhansel and Nani Roma – have taken victory on two and four wheels.
But what about from rallying’s top drawer, the WRC. There are five drivers whose names appear on the event winners’ roll of honour and who’ve also mastered the Dakar.