Activate Your Premium Membership Today >

Dakar Rally competitor previews world’s toughest event

Predicting who will win the Dakar Rally is like playing the lottery, says four-time Dakar competitor Christophe Barriere-Varju of Sydney.
Christophe’s 2010 bid is featured in the award-winning “Dream Racer” DVD and he will provide guest comments throughout our coverage of this year’s event, starting on Sunday.
He says there are two groups of riders, each with their advantages, who can win the world’s toughest motorsport event. Read my Dakar preview here.
“You have the experienced, great navigators, extremely fit, strategic and consistent and older riders, then the next group is the likely new generation of Dakar winners, less consistent, less strategic, but extremely fast younger riders,” he says.
“The way the Dakar has developed may favour the younger generation in the shorter stages, less technical, where navigation is not the prime aspect of the stage. However, when the stages change to open desert with no roads, the roles are likely to be reversed.
“The older generation will try to keep up in the shorter, less-technical stages, trying to avoid injuries, whilst the younger generation try to make the gap (perhaps at great risk) but will look to the elders in the open desert.”
Christophe says five-time winner Cyril Despres of France is in an interesting position, having swapped to Yamaha from KTM which has won the past 12 rallies.

“His main advantage is resilience and physical conditioning,” he says. “The longer and more difficult (physically or technically) the stage, the further up to the front he will be. A consistent finish (not necessarily winning) will see him in the front group. His Yamaha, that is a question mark.”
He says three-time winner Marc Coma of Spain will be the main threat on a KTM.
“KTM is the best-equipped team with the number of machines and riders to help each other,” he says.
“Marc is probably the best navigator out there, but will need to stay close to the younger group just like Cyril, then make the difference in the long stage where navigation is required. No doubt they both will pick their time to launch their attack.”
Leading Aussie contender of the six entries is Ben Grabham, but Christophe says the KTM rider needs to make a decision about his future.
“Go for it and earn a spot in the full factory as a potential winner, or play a support role if in need which will earn him some points at KTM but not necessarily a factory ride as their official team is full,” he says.
“Ben needs to be extremely consistent and avoid mistakes at all cost. I hope he has someone that can help him pick the days of his fights and play shadow/learn on other days. If he can manage to stay out of trouble there is no reason for him not to be in the top 10 at the end of the rally.”
Of course, Christophe would love to be competing, but the event is expensive and his video will help to fund another future challenge for the former junior African motocross champ.
“It is always strange to be in Australia in January, but I am learning the race even further simply watching,” he says.
Christophe hopes to compete in the 2015 Dakar in a single-seater buggy.
“After the success of Dream Racer winning awards all around the world and dubbed the best Dakar Rally film ever made by viewers, I am hoping to attract financial sponsors that can be part of Dream Racer II. The quicker they come on board the quicker the Dakar 2015 will become real,” he says.
Dream Racer is available in Pal and NTSC video at $24.95 or Blu-Ray for $29.95 or video-on-demand through their new website.
It is available around the world in places such as Curaçao in the Caribbean (population of 140,000 on a area of 444sqm), Chile, Argentina, Brasil, USA, Canada, Australia, France, Spain, Netherland, Germany, Norway, Sweden and many others.
Meanwhile, you can now follow the Dakar Rally with a new mobile app or join the 850,000 Dakar Facebook fans or 100,000 Dakar Twitter followers.