Dakar 2009: Final Post and Round-Up
File under Dakar Race
Author: Mike Werner
Location: Normandy, France
Woow, that was some rush this year's Dakar race. For the first time in South America and the success was immediate. Although the Dakar race is very popular in Africa, with 100,000's of spectators lined up along the way, the millions that were lined up in Argentina and Chile dwarfed the African passion for the race. As one of the motorcycle racers said "In both Africa and South America there are a lot of people watching the race, but the difference is in South America they public is very knowledgeable about the vehicles and the race".
Cyril Despres, runner-up this year, said in the last stage that it was just like the Tour de France when arriving on the Avenue Champs Elysee, with millions of fans.
When many competitors were asked, specially the veterans, they all said the preferred the South American edition, since it was far more challenging. Of the 217 motorcycles starting the race, "only" 113 finished. In total some 500 vehicles were registered, on 260 arrived at the finish (54%). The complete figures:
Motorcycles: Start: 217 Finish: 113 (52%)
Cars: Start: 178 Finish: 91 (51%)
Quads: Start: 25 Finish: 13
Trucks: Start: 81 Finish: 54 (65%)
The race sure brought many surprises to spectators and contestants alike.
Spaniard and former Dakar winner, Marc Coma , as usual, rode a majestic and very controlled race, and deserved his win. Both Marc and Cyril rode their KTM motorcycles as super professionals. They seem to be alternating each year who wins the race.
Frenchman and previous Dakar winner, Cyril Despres lost many places in the first three days due mostly to mechanical and tire problems, and ended in the 22nd position, and then clawed back to the 2nd spot.
The most surprising competitor was David Fretigne on his WRF 450 Yamaha motorcycle. I had already said in previous years that Fretigne was a serious candidate to win the Dakar, and the South American edition with its mountain high sand dunes was ideal for his light motorcycle.
He held on to the second position for a long time, but finally due to mechanical problems, he got pushed to the third place, but still a podium. Bravo to Fretigne and Yamaha.
Another surprising competitor was Dutchman Jurgen van den Goorbergh . You may remember him from many seasons in the MotoGP races, first in 250s and then in 500s and MotoGP bieks.
On his Honda 450, Jurgen finished in the 17th place for his very first Dakar race. His old GP buddy Loris Capirossi told him "You are crazy to want to do the Dakar, it is dangerous!".
It was very unfortunate that American Jonah Street did not finish, since he was doing very well. He was right there at the very top of the ranking, and could have made it on the podium.
He's got a very good chance of winning next year if KTM would use him as an official factory rider. With his young age, he sure can become number one.
In the ladies section, Dutchwomen Mirjam Pol , finished first in the ladies and 53rd overall, in front of the Swedish Rally Princess, Annie Seel (who finished 76th overall).
Unfortunately, favorite female rider, Ludivine Puy , was unable to attend this year, since she is competing in the European and French motocross championships.
The only real damper for this race was that the race cost the lives of three people (1 contestant and 2 people who had nothing to do with the race) and badly injured several.
So now the big question is, where is the 2010 Dakar going to be held. Three areas are mentioned by the organizers (ASO), South America (again), North Africa (but not Senegal/Dakar) and South Africa. From the popular vote, South America will win it over the others, but Africa is still the heart and minds of the Dakar race.