Now and Then
Adventure Motorcycle (ADVMoto)|January - February 2022
The Dakar Rally is changing whether we like it or not
By Ricky Brabec, Photography by Justin W. Coffey and Rally Zone

For many race fans, the Dakar Rally is more than just a name. Dakar is a dream, a livelihood, and a test to everyone who participates. Come January, it will be 43 years and counting since the race’s inception, and the rules are still changing. The regulations are intended to better the experience, making it safer and more approachable, while finding new ways to challenge competitors. That said, there are still many reservations from the community about what the industry is turning into. But what is that exactly?

From its beginning, the Dakar Rally set high standards for how we define “rally raid.” It’s the pinnacle of off-road motorsports for most pilots. Over the years, there have been both good and bad changes to the Dakar, and rally raid as a whole. In racing, the organization has to follow guidelines in order to keep participants safe while still enticing them to challenge themselves and their machines at the event.

Thanks to a 2021 rule change, racers must now use airbag-equipped, potentially life-saving suits. The road books are now distributed just 20 minutes before the start of each stage— which should promote fair competition between well-funded teams and those on shoestring budgets. There are more speed-controlled zones, and the ASO is working to limit top speeds. It’s an initiative hotly debated among the pro athletes who believe this would make it more difficult for the top racers to break from the pack with their raw speed and talent under certain conditions. As the sport continues to evolve, issues like these will continue.

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