2013 Dakar Rally: Survival Is Key

1 Dakar heli II

By John Rettie, photo credits: DPPI

Dune driving was the order of the day for the first few stages of the Dakar Rally 2013 as hundreds of bike and quad riders along with hundreds of vehicles headed south into Chile.

The competitors of the two-week race, which started on Jan. 5 and finished Jan. 20 with podium celebrations, then headed across the Andes into Argentina and back across the Andes into Chile again for a relatively tame last few days to the finish line in Santiago, Chile’s capital.

Pickup trucks, as we know them, are classified as cars in the Dakar Rally, so SCORE-type trucks such as the infamous Hummer driven by Robby Gordon and the Chevrolet Silverado run by California-based Frenchman Eric Vigouroux are competing head-to-head with highly modified four-wheel-drive SUVs and two-wheel-drive buggies. Although a handful of pickups compete regularly, they’ve never really been in contention for an overall win.

This year the organizers adjusted the rules to give trucks and buggies more power so they could better compete with the sophisticated four-wheel-drive cars (SUVs).

Fan favorite falters

4 Dakar Gordon II

Gordon is a favorite with the millions of spectators who watch the race; his bright orange Speed Energy Hummer is the most spectacular vehicle in the car class. Gordon has had mixed success in the eight years he has competed in the Dakar. His best result was in 2009 when he finished third overall behind two VW Race Touaregs. Last year he was fast but suffered mechanical problems. He also ran afoul of rules and was officially disqualified.

This year Gordon was confident of doing well. Sadly, it was on the very first stage that he lost the rally he so desperately wanted to win. "I stopped at the top of a dune after Kellon (Welch, his navigator) told me to be careful since we could not see the other side, and I was being super conservative. We got stuck and lost the transmission trying to get out,” Gordon said after the finishing 137th.

Racers never give up in the Dakar because even an hour’s deficit can be made up as every competitor is likely to suffer a mechanical problem, get stuck in a sand dune or get lost due to a navigational error.

Gordon could not afford to be conservative from then on. He finished second in Stage 3, which brought him back up to 13th place. However, his confidence got the better of him on Stage 4. “We went over a dune that was about 8 feet high, and on the other side, it went straight down, damaging the radiators and laying the Hummer on its back,” he said. “The Hummer is fine; the suspension did not take a hit. I did not want to take a chance hurting the motor any, so we had to wait for two different assistance trucks, which took hours. It is unfortunate and disappointing to not be racing for the overall now, but the good thing is we are still here and willing to fight for stage wins."

With no hope of a win, Gordon seemed to do better from then on – he took two stage wins and only finished out of the top five once in the remaining 10 stages. He eventually finished 14th overall and suffered no mechanical problems or even flats in his Toyo tires. He says he will be back again next year, looking for that elusive win.

5 Dakar airborne II

If you think Gordon’s Hummer is the biggest, baddest truck in Dakar wait until you witness the giant trucks racing. These monsters are amazing as they leap over dunes as if they were buggies. They make Trophy Trucks in Baja look like toy trucks.

Minis Snare Spotlight

There was no elusive win for Stéphane Peterhansel who won the Dakar for the 11th time. Unlike the other competitors, he did not lose time on any stage nor did he suffer any mechanical problems in his X-Raid All4Racing Mini. A look at the results shows that he took just two stage wins but finished in the top six every day until the last two when he drove cautiously to ensure his win. His margin of victory was 42 minutes after 38.5 hours of competitive driving over 14 days.

It’s no surprise that the Minis were the stars at this year’s Dakar as they also took third and fourth spots.

Consistency also paid off for Giniel De Villiers who finished second in the best-ever result for a “real” pickup truck. De Villiers, the South African who won the Dakar in 2009 driving a VW Race Touareg, formed a team last year with Imperial Toyota in South Africa and finished third overall in the HiLux.

He finished in the top five on all but three stages. A navigational error on the third stage, which cost 28 minutes, caused him to drop to fifth place at that stage of the race. His only hope of taking the win would have been if Peterhansel had a problem. 

Consistency is Key

This year’s winner, Eduard Nikolaev, is just 26 years old and started his career with the famous Kamaz team as a riding mechanic before he switched to driving.

Consistency paid off again as Nikolaev did not win any stages but finished no lower than eighth each day. It was last year’s truck winner, Dutchman Gerard De Rooy, who won six stages in his Iveco truck. He was in a commanding lead until Stage 9 when he lost 85 minutes after suffering mechanical problems. He eventually finished in fourth place behind the three Kamaz trucks.

2 Dakar DeVilliers II

It’s worth noting that the winner of the 2011 Dakar, Nasser Al-Attiyah from Qatar, who drove Gordon’s second Hummer last year, entered his own team this year with Carlos Sainz, who won the 2010 Dakar. Instead of opting for a traditional SUV, he elected to have two buggies built by Demon Jefferies in California. The team was only formed a few months before the race so there was little time to test the Chevy-powered buggies.

Nonetheless, right from the start the buggies proved to be quick with Sainz setting the fastest time on the first stage and Al-Attiyah winning three stages and finishing in the top seven spots each day until a water pump failed on the ninth day. He joined Sainz, who dropped out on the sixth day with mechanical problems, on the sidelines.

It’s always been said that it takes several years for a new team to find success in Dakar. That was true of the VW team, which only achieved success after five years before winning four years in a row. The Minis have now won two years in a row.

Could next year see a pickup win for the first time or will a buggy take the honors for the first time since 2000? Or could Gordon finally manage to win?

3 Dakar Toyota II

6 Dakar Chevy II

9 Dakar sanddune II

7 Dakar map


A fascinating race every year. Only wish there were more coverage of this event in North America, and wish Speed would release HD on the Bell network...

@Mark Williams
Thanks for the article. These best performing modified production Pickup was Carlos Sousa who came in 6th in the Great Wall Chinese Pickup.

Giniel De Villiers Hilux had a sleeved down Toyota Tundra V8 of 4.6 Litres capacity.

Of the top ten finishers 50% were powered by 3 Litre Diesels.

Nasser Al-Attiyah and Carlos Sainz Buggies ran to FISA rules rather than SCORE Rules and were allowed slightly more freedoms in the engine. They were getting 735hp in their 2WD Buggies.

Gerard De Rooy was running a IVECO Powerstar truck built in Australia. The Heavy Truck Class has vehicles weighing 10 Tons and with power outputs from 850-1000hp from their mainly 13litre engines. The Organisers do not allow 15-16 litre engines.

Forgot to Add.

The Heavy Trucks had about 2,600lb ft of torque at almost idle speed.

Best near Stock Vehicle was a Toyota Landcruiser SUV, that came in 27th.

A Toyota Tundra finished 52nd.

A Toyota Tacoma came in 71st.

Stéphane Peterhansel started out racing bikes. Once a racer always a racer. I think that Gordon approaches Dakar with a Baja metality. What I mean when I say that is one's driving strategy is different for a 500 - 1,000 mile race than it is for a 9,000 km or 5,000 mile route. That is like driving from Pudue Bay Alaska to Miami Florida but offroad.

oops, meant Purdue Bay Alaska.

Gordon has this got to win in a day attitude plus a very negative opinion of all the other competitors. He is not well liked. When the pressure was off he became much more consistent and faster.

Peterhansel not only won 6 times on a Bike and now 5 times in a car but started out initially as Gymnast in France.

The Buggies and cars have classes withing classes. Most interesting one was for small Diesel buggies. One finished 17th.

They also have a class for quads as well as Bikes. Bikes are very dangerous , virtually all the people killed have ridden bikes. That does not include spectators that are killed as well. The Dakar harks back to the Roman games in some respects.

I love the attitude in this race. Every team just rolls with the punches and never stops racing. Like Gordon and his orange hummer. He fell behind for hours cause of repairs, but still kept on. Then he runs into more troubles that make it impossible to win the whole race, and what does he do... he still keeps on racing!
Good times, I give respect to anyone who participates in the Dakar

Thanks to Islam this event is now in south america.

@ Robert Ryan,

Best pickup truck finish was a Toyota, not some Chinese pickup!

The Imperial Toyota finished second overall...

At least show some pics of American made pickups like the Tacoma's and Tundra's!

Why no pics of the Kamaz 1-2-3 finish?

On the 2nd to last pic of of #306 getting out to push the Toyota Hilux (similar to a Tacoma) from the rear:


I am laughing because he got hung up on the frame! Yeah it's called break-over angle!

Best pickup truck finish was a Toyota, not some Chinese pickup!

Mr. oxi, Did you say not some chinese pickup? You sound very racist with hatred for the Chinese!



Good job Ram!

Sergio promises updated Chrysler product plan next week

DETROIT -- Sergio Marchionne said he will update the five-year product plan that the automaker laid out in November 2009 when Chrysler Group announces its earnings Wednesday.

Speaking to Automotive News last week during the Detroit auto show, the Chrysler-Fiat CEO said that enough changes have been made to the original product roadmap to warrant a redraft.

"We'll repitch it when we do the analysts call," Marchionne promised. "What has not changed is the financial objectives."

I can only hope that the "repitched" plan will be as detailed and nugget-filled as the original presentation, which laid out plans for potential future engine displacements, segment entries and platform sharing.

The 2009 presentation -- greeted with cynical skepticism and even derision from some quarters at the time -- has started as time has progressed to look as though it were penned by Michel de Nostradame. For example, Chrysler remarkably met or exceeded its aggressive global delivery targets in each of the plan's first three years.

But like the famous French quatrains, there are some product predictions remaining in the plan that have yet to materialize and others now being considered that didn't appear. For example:

Ram's "Lifestyle" truck. A natural successor to the now-departed Dodge Dakota, the mid-sized unibody pickup was supposed to show up in 2011. It never arrived, and the brand's leaders will say only that such a vehicle remains under study.

Read more: http://www.autonews.com/article/20130124/BLOG06/130129941#ixzz2J9Dk8UZl

No the Toyota Pickup did not have a stock sourced engine. The Great Wall did. Neither did the "Mini"s have a stock engine or chassis. Gordon's "Hummer" is a "Buggy"

There were two Isuzu's Pickups with modified Stock engines.
best one from Australia finished 38th.

A Volkswagen Amarok with stock modified engine 30th.

If I can find it a "real" Hilux with a 3 Litre engine finished in the early 30's

The Toyota Hiluxes built in South Africa were racing to T1 Dakar regulations which allow non-stock engines and suspensions as long as they the engines are from the same manufacturer. This also applied to the "Minis" .


"We’re very proud of the mostly South African local content of our racing Hilux. Apart from the Group N engine, which is a standard production 4,6-litre all-aluminium V8 made by Toyota in Japan and fitted with a 35 mm restrictor to meet Dakar regulations, and the French-built Sadev 6-speed sequential gearbox, almost all the other components have been built in South Africa.
“A new feature on the Terranova car is a rear-mounted radiator which we fabricated using two production Toyota Land Cruiser cores. The braking system was specially made for us by Power Brake and has 320 x 32 mm ventilated discs all round and 6-piston calipers front and rear,” Hall added.
The suspension and live axle were designed and custom made in South Africa. Ground clearance is 300 mm and the vehicle conforms to the 1 937 kg weight class with two spare wheels fitted at the back. Special Rally Raid competition tyres are made by BF Goodrich."

Great pics. Looks like fun.

If you want to upgrade your Taco into a more advanced pickup come over here and buy a Great Wall. They run a Surf chassis which extremely similar chassis to your Taco, Mitsubishi running gear and a modified Izuzu body.

The only thing is the engine technology might be more advanced. The Great Wall diesel (old school) is only a 2 litre and is putting out nearly the same power and torque as a 3 litre Hilux diesel.

You can get a diesel 4x4 dual cab, leather, power everything for under $30 000.

Carpenters, and other builders are buying them as they are apparently not too unreliable, just like a Toyota but 50% the cost.

I don't know if you read or remembered the "Global 4x4 Ute" review done last year by PUTC. Toyota only supplied a gasoline 4 litre V6. Why, you ask. Because Toyota can't provide a competitive engine.

It came last not just because of the engine, but also the vehicles dynamics.


What do you have to say to the Kamaz trucks that beat the Tacomas and Hiluxs?

I'm pretty sure I remember being taught that giant off road tanks were for posers and weren't worth a flip for REAL off-roading.

Did I miss something?

@Toycrusher - yes, more excuses from Oxi!

The Kamaz's were in their own Truck Class, they were not racing against the "cars" class i.e Tacoma's and Hiluxes.
US Racing does not have an equivalent class as the Trucks in the Dakar

They sure looked impressive getting their 20,000lb bulk through the Desert dunes.


Seeing this coming at you over the Dunes would be a sight.

@Robert Ryan

I'm with you. They are an awesome sight to see. It amazes me that they don't turn turtle every time there is a twist in the road.


The stock Toyota finished in 73 hours

The slowest Kamaz finished in 45 hours

This proves that bigger heavier trucks can compete off-road.

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