More restrictions to a restricted Dakar

I had the honor to come to the last edition of The Mint 400 and see in person the American off-road spectacle and make the realization that this sport has very little-to-nothing to do with the Rally Raid controlled by the FIA. Here in the US it’s all about competition and the restrictions are really slim when at the rest of the motorsport planet the restrictions are getting more and more tight with the safety excuse. We just need to wait and see how they jump straight into eSports to be 100% safe.

Motorsports are dangerous by nature for both participants and spectators but that shouldn’t convert this sport into something tasteless like where it is heading right now, I fear the day all motorsports have the same emotion like F1, which is zero for me.

08 Goncalvez Paulo (prt), Hero, Hero Motosports Team Rally, Moto, Bike, Motul, action during Stage 7 of the Dakar 2020 between Riyadh and Wadi Al-Dawasir, 741 km - SS 546 km, in Saudi Arabia, on January 12, 2020 - Photo Eric Vargiolu / DPPI
08 Goncalvez Paulo, action during Stage 7 of the Dakar 2020 Photo credit: Dakar Rally

In some Dakar background, the Citroen/Peugeot superiority ended with the turbo engines and limited the suspension travel and tire diameters. The crash of the DAF trucks set a new limited max speed in that category. Bikes have suffered similar results with their limited-to 450cc engine, you could say that after each accident they put one more turn in the screw of restrictions.

The passing away of Paulo Gonçalves in the last edition of Dakar have put the attention again in the bike category planning new restrictions to reduce the speed overall of the Bikes, these are the 4 points that they are checking:

Maybe less flat straights and more turns. Photo credit: Dakar Rally

In the stages marked as “fast” limit the max speed so they aren’t able to reach the current 115mph limit, such idea is one of the most absurd things I have read in a while. It doesn’t make sense what’s the point of having “Fast stages” when you limit the reachable speed, even before Paulo crash there were riders who complained about how currently there some stages with no racing vibe, just long straight flat roads with nothing to do but keep the gas all way cranked. The solution would be to create much more technical stages where the riders aren’t able to reach top speeds.

Less acceleration in racing makes no sense at all. Photo credit: Dakar Rally

Second restriction is to limit the horsepower so the bike have less acceleration and this way they take longer to reach max speed. Again absurd, making the bikes slower overall might increase the chances of getting caught by the cars and trucks increasing the chances of contact in between them considering the bikes always start first. We need to make sure the bikes are the further away possible from the 4-wheel vehicles.

Replace paper with digital, maybe not a bad idea. Photo credit: Dakar Rally

Third restriction is to replace the paper roadbooks by digital ones that don’t require to be operated by the riders allowing them to be more concentrated on the racecourse and like that avoiding fatal incidents like Fabrizio Meoni who lost his life in 2005 for getting distracted too much with the navigation tools. Here is where I’m in favor of the changes, getting the file in a digital way will allow the riders to have an extra 2 to 4 hours of rest every night that they usually spend working on the paper roadbook for next day’s stage.

how it works modern airbag suits
More technology in safety is always a good idea, specially if doesn’t interfere with racing. Photo credit:

Similiar with the third restriction, I found the last restriction equally interesting because it makes mandatory the usage of Airbag jackets, safety equipment used in events like the MotoGP, the jacket gives the riders more safety but it doesn’t interfere with the spirit of competition and fight that must be at every Dakar.

Enrique Bonafonte

Native from Spain, Enrique is an expert Rally Raid driver with more than 10 years of experience including two participations in the Rally Dakar.