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Eight things you need to know about Dakar 2024

Dakar returns for its 46th running ready to push its competitors further than ever

There are nearly 800 competitors across eight categories

It’s a bit bigger than a Grand Prix, that’s for sure. There will be 778 combatants at the 2024 Dakar Rally split across eight different categories, of which cars are merely one. Cars, bikes and trucks have been a Dakar mainstay since its 1979 conception, with quads, buggies and classics among the numerous classes added since.

Nearly two thirds of it is new

Sixty percent of Dakar 2024’s 5000 miles are brand new to competitors as the rally heads twice between the coasts of the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf. The turnaround point? A scary new 48-hour marathon stage that sees competitors traverse the arid Empty Quarter of the Arabian Desert within strict timeframes and with minimal provisions.

Sat navs won’t cut it here

Driving or riding your machine with deft skills and an ounce of mechanical sympathy is just one small step to Dakar glory – knowing where on Earth you’re going is pretty vital too. Competitors use GPS, roadbooks and – with a bit of luck – can follow in wheel tracks left by rivals ahead of them. But a bit of homework – doodling their own bespoke notes and illustrations of potential hazards en route in the margins of their roadbook – is vital to finish, never mind attain victory.

It ain’t just sand, either

While the vast sand dunes in the Empty Quarter may loom largest on the drivers’ and riders’ minds, it’s not the only terrain they’ll battle at Dakar 2024. Jagged rocks, deep canyons and an oasis also feature, not to mention the stretches of public road that link liaison points and which come with the scariest obstacle of all if you’re a motorsport athlete: speed limits.

Weather could scupper things, too

Think ‘desert race’ and you probably think of an endless blue sky, sun dazzling like an expensive crystal over vast swathes of golden sand, all ready to be bounced over by finely suspended cars with reckless abandon. Yet the 2023 Dakar Rally competitors suffered heavy rain and its resulting mudslides and flash floods. Stages were altered and the inaugural marathon stage was abandoned leading to its blockbuster 2024 debut.

It's Audi’s last Dakar

The third time is the charm. Well, that’s what Audi Sport is hoping as it enters the iconic Dakar Rally for the third and final time before concentrating its motorsport efforts on Formula One. Once again, the famous four rings will head to Saudi Arabia with the innovative and complex RS Q e-tron. This pioneering prototype simultaneously combines an electric drivetrain with a high-voltage battery and a highly-efficient energy converter. Could this year be Audi’s winning year and the perfect way to top off its Rally Raid era? We’ll have to wait to find out. 

The classics are back

As if the wildly designed cars, boisterous trucks and deft bikes weren’t enough for you, Dakar will once again host a Classics portion of the rally to satisfy those craving the retro liveries and iconic designs that dominated the deserts in the 1980s and ‘90s – or perhaps enlighten newer fans ready to discover a whole new bunch of cars and trucks to lap up YouTube footage of or pummel to submission on their favourite race sim.

But there’s room for new tech, too

While it’s nice to enjoy a moment of reverie by glancing over our shoulder at rallies past, Dakar is pretty keen to scan the horizon for what’s coming in its future, too. Dakar Future Mission 1000 will see hydrogen, hybrid and fully electric competitors on both two wheels and four take to daily 100km stages. All with the ambition of scoping out how future fuels can play a role in the most gruelling motorsport event on Earth for many years to come…

For more Audi performance stories, head this way

*This vehicle shown here is the Rally Dakar vehicle that is not available as a production model. Closed course, professional driver. Do not attempt. The Audi RS Q e-tron combines an electric drivetrain with an energy converter system comprising a TFSI engine and generator.

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