The Indianapolis 500, the 24 Hours of Le Mans as well as other daylong races at the Spa-Francorchamps and Nurburgring are renowned tests in motorsports. Stretching the limits on machinery and the humans operating them in competition, the automotive world has benefited greatly from experimentation in largely controlled chaos. Originating in the late days of 1978, the Dakar Rally is a comparably younger race to other endurance tests in the motorsport world but is perhaps the most gruelling adventure available on two or four wheels.
The Dakar Rally is not simply a motorsport event; the multi-week trek that generally involving 14 to 18 stages is a test of strength, stamina and survival. Environmental conditions such as extreme temperatures, floods and sandstorms as well as seemingly endless variety of vehicle mechanical issues are typical accompaniments to the competition between cars, trucks, bikes and quad runners. For a long time the Dakar Rally rolled through the European and African continents until a terrorist threat in 2008 ultimately halted the event. From 2009, the Dakar Rally has taken place in South America where they were able to reasonably match the rugged, challenging conditions.
Prior to the 2013 edition of the Dakar Rally, 25 competitors have died attempting to finish the event. Sadly, the number increased to 26 when French motorcycle rider Thomas Bourgin was killed following a collision with a police vehicle just ahead of starting the Dakar Rally’s seventh stage.
Despite the tragedies and time of sorrow, the Dakar Rally is still a motorized endeavour many motorsport competitors hunger to compete in each year. Ever since the first Dakar Rally, four-wheel drive vehicles have been fighting to stake claim to a car category victory. A Range Rover piloted by Alain Genestier and Joseph Terbiaut won the inaugural rally. Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz, Renault, Peugeot and most uniquely two Porsches represent the past manufacturers who best survived a Dakar Rally event in the car class. Last year, former motorcycle competitor Stephane Peterhansel and co-pilot Jean-Paul Cottret claimed overall victory with a modified Mini Countryman called the All 4 Racing.
Wanting to win the most extreme motoring honour of the year, 459 competitors among four categories assembled for the 2013 edition of the Dakar Rally starting in Lima, Peru. Part of the popular car category involved in the 16-day span trekking to Santiago, Chile has been the Red Bull team entries driven by Carlos Sainz and Nasser Al-Attiyah.
The year 2012 concluded as a banner year for Red Bull-backed activities testing that tested the limits of human beings. In Formula 1, Sebastian Vettel performed a remarkable recovery in the latter part of the season to be crowned the Driver’s World Champion for a third-straight season. As Vettel elevated himself with Red Bull sponsorship to a massive victory, the energy drink’s most memorable participation was with someone who took a dive, a supersonic dive performed by Felix Baumgartner.
Red Bull sponsored an armada of entries in car, bike and the large truck classes of the 2013 Dakar Rally. The majority of attention has been devoted to the Qatar Red Bull Rally Team and their new buggy. Powered by a Chevrolet Corvette LS6 V8 engine, the Demon Jefferies built buggy is tailored for the Dakar Rally. Qatar Red Bull Rally Team structured winner of the 2010 Dakar Rally Carlos Sainz and the 2011 event victor Nasser Al-Attiyah in what they intended to be the force to be reckon with for the 2013 rally honours.
Starting on the 5th of January, Spanish driver Carlos Sainz immediately showed the strength of the new buggy. Showing that the handlers of the Red Bull buggy were an affirmative one-two punch, Nasser Al-Attiyah was fastest in the third, fourth and sixth daily stages eventually ranked second overall in the car category. A roughly 8,500-kilometer event for the car category, technical problems with Qatar Red Bull Rally Team’s new off-road racing machine claimed Sainz on the sixth stage of the 2013 Dakar Rally leaving Nasser Al-Attiyah to fight with the lone remaining buggy. Unfortunately, Al-Attiyah would have to retire a few days later ahead of stage nine when what is suspected to be a failed water pump brought an end to his 2013 Dakar Rally and the final hope for the Qatar Red Bull Rally Team.
As the Red Bull-sponsored buggies suffered a heartbreaking double retirement, the Austrian energy drink brand is still riding over the dirt paths on the side of other competitors. With the attrition of the buggy vehicles, 2009 Dakar Rally winner has been carrying the flag for Red Bull in a No 301 Toyota Hilux. South African Giniel De Villiers is 50 minutes is off from the lead vehicle in the car category. The No 336 Overdrive Toyota Hilux driven by World Cup ski jumper Adam Malysz is fourteenth overall after the 12th stage. Dakar Rally’s reigning champion Stephane Peterhansel is in prime position to defend his car class win with the Mini All 4 Racing.
In the bike class, the KTM Red Bull Rally Factory Team featuring four-time Dakar class winner Cyril Despres is riding in the lead after 12 stages of the 2013 Dakar Rally. Despres is fighting to defend his 2012 event victory. Red Bull also supports third place runner Francisco Lopez, eighth place Helder Rodrigues and tenth place Jakub Przygonski riding for the Orlen team. American Kurt Caselli is also riding on a KTM backed by Red Bull in 25th place in bikes with two stages remaining. Caselli has stood out in the 2013 Dakar Rally by claiming two stage victories in the bike category in addition to some top-5 placements in other stages.
After 12 rounds, the Red Bull livery on the Kamaz 4X4 driven by 26-year old Eduard Nikolaev is holding down the overall lead in the 2013 Dakar Rally truck category. Fellow Red Bull-sponsored truck Ayrat Mardeev is trailing close in second place. Red Bull-supported Kamaz 4X4s are also found in third and thirteenth in the running order as the finish line nears.
For a company that enjoys being in contact with extreme sports and lifestyle events, Red Bull participation in the 2013 Dakar Rally could be a chance to once again be connected to sporting greatness. Zeroing in on Santiago as 1,365 kilometers remains in stages 13 and 14 of the 2013 Dakar Rally, the remaining vehicles have a remarkably long homestretch where only the best in people as well as equipment will survive.
Information and photo source: Amaury Sport Organization, Red Bull