2018 Dakar: a menu of mountains and sand
“The first five days of the 2018 Dakar, from Lima to Arequipa, will visit massive dunes that stretch as far as the eye can see. It won’t be easy for me because the drivers will no doubt run me with very low pressures in order to increase the size of my contact patch to help me surf over the sand. I’m presuming some crews will need to slide sand ladders under my tread blocks from time to time…
“The fourth day promises to be especially hard because it includes a 100-kilometre run through an ocean of dunes. It will be one of the longest uninterrupted expanses of sand in Dakar history. I suppose we have ASO to thank for that! I’m really looking forward to the collective start on the shore of the Pacific Ocean, though. That should be fantastic. Which of my versions will be the fastest? The 16-inch All Terrain KDR2+ on the four-wheel drive cars or the 17-inch variant on the buggies? We’ll find out soon enough.
“Next comes Bolivia and a visit to majestic Lake Titicaca ahead of the rest day in La Paz where the drivers will be able to accustom themselves to the altitude. Indeed, the ensuing action will take us across the Bolivian altiplano – at more than 3,500 metres above sea level – over a period of three days.
“Personally, I don’t expect to suffer from altitude sickness, but I suppose my pressures will be adjusted for the marathon leg from La Paz to Uyuni and, ultimately, Tupiza. That’s practically 1,000 kilometres of high-speed action in conditions that could well be muddy and extremely tricky if last year’s Dakar is anything to go by. Thankfully, BFGoodrich®’s engineers have modified my tread pattern since then. It is now more open, with deeper grooving to help clear any water or mud to provide the drivers with more grip.
“From there, it will be on to Argentina where the final phase of the rally promises to be pretty complex. I am familiar with the mountain tracks in the Salta region, but I am more concerned about the infamous white dunes near Fiambala. I’ve heard so much about them from my predecessors who tell tales of sinking into the fine white sand up to their shoulders. And it can get scorchingly hot on the eastern approaches to the Andes, too, so it’s going to be a pretty hellish ordeal.
“For the drivers, it will be the last big challenge of the 2018 Dakar, but I will still have to contend with the long, rocky Argentine trails which include dry river beds that can be very rough in places. I will need to shrug off all the knocks and blows and possible cuts on the sharper stones because, at the end of the day, along with the rims on which we are fitted, my three workmates and I are all that lies between the ground and two tonnes of raging metal. Last year, I remember a broken rim dented the chances of Peugeot’s Sébastien Loeb here. Despite what you may have heard, it wasn’t one of my colleagues who failed in their duty…”