At the beginning of 2018, our trip around the world crossed the Dakar Rally … back then in northern Argentina. The visit to the bivouac and the meeting with the MAN service team were among the emotionally most beautiful moments of our trip around the world at that time. More or less by accident we are now back in the right country at the right time…. the Dakar Rally, like us, has meanwhile moved on to Saudi Arabia.
First, we plan to visit the rally in Riyadh. The mediocre atmosphere of the city, as well as the not exactly adventurous or desert-like bivouac location on a university site, let us change our plans: we choose the city of Bisha in the south-west of the country on the edge of the Asir Mountains. Here the bivouac is outside the city, on the edge of the desert below the so-called “White Mountain”.
Even if very strict controls due to corona and a new MAN service team mean that we do not manage to enter the bivouac this time, it does not reduce the experience and the atmosphere. From late morning we watch the arrival of the huge “Dakar convoy”: first the service trucks and mobile homes, then the first race cars and – like in Argentina four years ago – finally the race trucks. The new category of the so-called “vintage cars” (i.e. youngtimers and therefore also suitable for participants with a smaller budget) has its finish just a few meters away from our overnight stay “behind” the Dakar bivouac. So, we can see their finish in the evening.
The next morning, the alarm clock has been ringing very early since a long time: at 5:00 a.m. This time we don’t want to repeat our experience what happened to us in Argentina: there we had spent the night with Shujaa in the bivouac and wanted to drive behind the race trucks to the starting point of the special stage the next morning. Unfortunately, we weren’t let out of the bivouac with the race participants, we had to wait… and thus missed the start of the special stage. This time we have an unhindered approach, but the bivouac is still very quiet… Nothing is happening at all and everyone but us seems to be still asleep. At some point, around 6:00 a.m., the first motorcyclists leave the bivouac and make their way to the starting point of the special stage, a good 100 km away. It lasts until around 8:30 a.m. before the first race cars set off… we could have stayed in bed much longer!
Thanks to the very good Dakar app, which displays the GPS position of the individual drivers during the race day in near real time, we find the starting point of the special stage without any problems this time and are able to position ourselves ideally for photos and films. A real experience – especially the turbine-like humming electric motors of the new Audi RS Etrons are a completely new sound sensation and show where the journey will go also in rallying in the future. After we have welcomed our “old friends” Mathias Behringer (now drives the MAN Race Truck as a fast assist for the Audi team) and Stefan Henke (drives the MAN Race Truck for the South Racing Team), we relocate and drive about 70 km further. There we want to watch the race in the middle of a sea of dunes. Of course, we can do what the race trucks can do: we deflate our tires, drive into the sea of dunes, park Shujaa in the middle of the track and experience a spectacle that is difficult to describe in words. The fact that various drivers have to deviate slightly from their ideal line because of Shujaa’s parking location only comes to my attention when I climb a high dune with a lot of effort and see the drifting cars driving around Shujaa.
Dakar the second – another great experience! Here the video!