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Dakar 2016 – the 4 superheroes

If you don’t like sleeping, try to do a Dakar race next January. Many participants would get to the end of a stage late at night, then repair the vehicle, sleep perhaps for 2 hours, get up and go to the start point of the next stage. Every day for two weeks.

The Dakar is acknowledged as the world’s toughest race. It’s tough on the competitors and the support staff. Every participant is a hero even if a team did not finish the race.

The Odyssey

The 2016 Dakar, the 37th edition of this magnificent rally, was called “The Odyssey.” An odyssey, as you know, is “a long wandering or voyage usually marked by many changes of fortune.” Apt description for a 9,237 km (5,739 mi) long rally. Only 62% of the 347 vehicles completed the race.

The angry weather gods slashed the Chile and Peru stages out even before the event started and then hurled their worst at Argentina and Bolivia. There were thunderstorms and floods and when it didn’t rain, temperatures shot up to 40° C. Some stages had to be halted early to prevent competitors from dying in the extreme conditions.

Dakar 2016

Dakar 2016 Superheroes

Almost every year a small group stand out even above the heroes, the Dakar superheroes. These are the people who achieved the almost-impossible and grabbed the public attention over-and-above the usual admiration.

Here are the 4 super heroes of Dakar 2016 –

Yoshimasa Sugawara

The 74-year-old Yoshi Sugawara has been competing in the Dakar Rally since 1983. He first raced in the motorcycle category, switching to the car category for 7 events and the truck category since 1992. His 32 entries is a Guinness World Record.

Quoting from his Dakar page profile

A living legend of the Dakar, the Japanese competitor first read about the event in the 1980s in a motorcycle magazine. While his first participation in the motorcycle category in 1983 finished prematurely, he has more than made up for that since, with only three retirements in over 30 Dakar rallies in the bike, auto and truck divisions! Sugarawa is the record holder in terms of Dakar finishes with 20 consecutive rallies completed between 1989 and 2009.

Yoshimasa Sugawara 2016

74 years old! Is that freakin’ awesome, or what?! “Living legend of the Dakar.” Super hero. Long may you drive, Yoshi!

Stéphane Peterhansel

He is the only person who has won the Dakar motorcycle category 6 times (1991, 1992, 1993, 1995, 1997, 1998) and the car category 6 times (2004, 2005, 2007, 2012, 2013, 2016). He holds the record for most stage wins and most race wins.

Stéphane Peterhansel is “Mr Dakar.”

Stéphane Peterhansel and Jean-Paul Cottret Dakar 2016

Stéphane Peterhansel (nearest camera) and navigator Jean-Paul Cottret, Peugeot 2008 DKR16, Dakar 2016. Image Peugeot Sport

It is going to take a very, very special person to beat Peterhansel’s Dakar record.

(Note, the 2016 final results of the car category is being challenged in court by the Mini team.)

Sylvain Espinasse

46-year-old Frenchman Sylvain Espinasse finished the Dakar 2016 on a Husqvarna 125cc 2-stroke motorcycle!

He might have finished second last (83rd) but, remember, out of 136 starters on bikes only 84 (61%) completed the race; and those were fast 450cc rally motos. But just the fact that Espinasse finished it on a 2-stroke is a feat in itself.

Can you imagine the pure concentration and stamina needed to race a 125cc motorcycle through the thickets and fesh-fesh, through that heat and up at 4,050 metre (13,287 ft) altitude?

Sylvain Espinasse

Sylvain Espinasse being congratulated by 5-time winner Marc Coma, now Dakar Sporting Director.

Laia Sanz

The poster girl of the modern Dakar. A tough cookie. The participants’ favourite. The crowd favourite.

Over the past few years Laia Sanz has given us some of the best Dakar action material. She is “one of the most versatile and accomplished competitors at the Dakar.”

Her Dakar profile page

Laia Sanz just won her fourth consecutive World Enduro Championship title. She has 17 world championship crowns in all (four Enduro and 13 Trial). The Catalan rider seems unbeatable and she gets better every year. Her 9th place on the 2015 Dakar is the best-ever result for a women on the rally.

Laia Sanz KTM 450 RALLY Dakar 2016

Laia Sanz in action, Dakar 2016. Image KTM Press Centre

This Dakar, Sanz’ 6th, was perhaps her toughest yet. Apart from the mentioned racing conditions, she completed the last few stages with injuries and a fever, finishing in 15th place. She and others feel strongly that she would have done even better if some of the stages had not been (controversially) shortened due to the conditions. As she said, “This is the Dakar and it has to be hard.”

Dakar 2016 winners

For the record, the winners in the respective categories were –

Car – Stéphane Peterhansel and Jean-Paul Cottret, Peugeot 2008 DKR16

Bikes – Toby Price, KTM 450

Quads – Marcos Patronelli, Yamaha Raptor 700

Trucks – Gerard de Rooy, Moi Torrallardona and Darek Rodewald, Iveco

Malle Moto – Jurgen van den Goorbergh, KTM 450

Now, go get some sleep. The next Dakar is only 11 months away.

21/01/2016. Category: People. Topic: , .

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