One of the most famous competitions in the world of motorsport and one of the main international events of the rapidly started year was “Dakar”, which continues experiments, trying to retain its leading position, despite numerous objective difficulties and intrigues of competitors. To date, the “Dakar” has the second largest number of TV audiences after the prestigious “Formula-1” and annually collects on the waysides of its tracks up to four million fans. During the current 40th raid in history and the tenth – after moving to South America – the organizers tried to keep the achieved positions. In particular, for this reason, the start date was maximally removed from the Christmas and New Year holidays: the rally started on the 6th of January, which was a few days later than usual and for the first time after a five-year hiatus returned to Peru, where the sand stretches of the race took place.
In 2009, due to a number of problems with ensuring the safety of participants and fans, the “Dakar” moved from Africa to South America. At that moment, it seemed, the race entered an era of prosperity in a calm, picturesque and very interesting for the automakers region. However, contrary to all expectations, everything turned out to be not so simple. On the old African route, at the same time, there was a competing raid “Africa Race”, which every year “attracts” experienced and strong teams, as well as famous riders.
By 2016, a number of economic and political problems arose in the Latin American region, in the expanses of which the “Dakar” arrived in 2006. The first country that refused to start a popular race two years ago was Chile, which, because of the earthquake, faced an economic crisis. For economic reasons, then referred to Peru, and in the calendar of “Dakar” there were only two countries – Bolivia and Argentina. In 2017, they still managed to connect Paraguay, but in the end, two stages due to bad weather had to be canceled. In this jubilee season, the “Dakar again” returned to Peru, and also traveled through Argentinean and Bolivian cities.
This year the route of the race with a total length of about 9,000 km was drawn up in such a way that the final part of the rally-raid on the territory of Argentina became decisive, but much was already understood on the plots in the dunes of Peru. A significant part of the distance for security reasons was laid separately for trucks and separately – for passenger cars with motorcycles. The participants of the jubilee 40th in the history of the rally-raid from the 6th to the 20th of January overcame the territory of Peru, Bolivia and Argentina. However, one of the stages was canceled due to bad weather.
For the Russians, the “Dakar-2018” once again became a success. The Russian crew of the “KAMAZ-Master” team led by Eduard Nikolaev won the rally-raid in the overall standings of the trucks. The team also included Evgeny Yakovlev and Vladimir Rybakov. Before the last stage, Nikolaev was in the lead in the general classification, ahead of the nearest pursuer at 3 hours 53 minutes and 59 seconds.
The second place is occupied by the representative of Belarus – Alexander Vyazovich (MAZ), the third place was occupied by Airat Mardeev, who also supports in the “KAMAZ-Master” team. Another member of the Russian team, Dmitry Sotnikov, took 10th place. It is worth noting that Nikolaev is a three-time winner of the “Dakar”. He previously won the marathon in 2013 and 2017.
The “KAMAZ-Master” is the most titled team of the “Dakar” in the standings of trucks. Now she is a 15-fold winner of the famous rally-raid. In total, there were 42 crews in the truck class, but, Russians on their new cars throughout the race remained unconditional favorites. Since 2000, the “KAMAZ-Master has lost only four of the competition “Dakar”.
On the 12th of February, in the Bolivian business capital, employees of the Russian Embassy in Bolivia and personally met with the crew of the “KAMAZ-Master” team and wished the participants victory. The captain of the team Eduard Nikolaev noted that the particularly warm welcome for the second year in a row is in La Paz.
As for the political dimension of the rally-raid “Dakar”, it is worth noting the ambiguous attitude to the legendary sports competition from the Latin American countries. Every year, the race is causing more and more resonance in the countries of the region, the number of opponents is also increasing: political slogans are increasingly sounding. Residents of countries, according to the picturesque expanses of which, like a “thread” is the powerful “Dakar”, condemn the government spending on such a large-scale sporting event. In the center of the “anti-Dakar” criticism are the environmental problems of the region. After in 2016, Chile flatly refused to hold the “Dakar”, in Argentina and Bolivia again started talking about the advisability of the race in the Latin American region.
This year the fiercest protests against the rally-raid took place in Bolivia. Hundreds of people lined the road and chanted political slogans against the country’s current president, Evo Morales, who has been in power since 2006. This time, the holding of the “Dakar” coincided with a series of massive national strikes aimed at repealing the amendment of the country’s Political Constitution, the purpose of which is Morales’ opportunity to stand for the third time in the upcoming presidential elections in November of 2019.
Protesters threw foreign objects under the wheels of the accompanying rally-raid transport. To the passage of the main part of the police, they managed to disperse the protesters who shouted: “We want hospitals, not Dakar”.
Does Dakar need Latinos? Is it worth spending huge financial resources for a world-class sports event when there are a number of serious economic problems in the countries? What are the environmental consequences that the Latin American countries may face after a few years of rally-raid on their expanses? From year to year these issues are most sharply discussed both at the level of national governments and in the regional dimension. For a long time there will be a famous race in Latin America, it is unclear. As the famous motto of the founder of the competition Thierry Sabine says: “Dakar is a challenge for those who decided, and a dream for those who stayed”. In 2019, the Dakar will just “stay” again in the region, and the governments of Bolivia, Peru, Argentina and Ecuador have already expressed their willingness to host the rally-raid. The Chilean authorities also after two years are thinking about returning the race to their roads.