The Dakar Rally has taken place on South American soil every year since it was moved to the continent in 2009, with Chile consistently playing a central role. For the last two years the finish line of the famous sporting event has been in Santiago and in Valparaíso. While the 2015 event will break with that tradition — beginning and ending in Bueno Aires, Argentina — Chile remains key to the dramatic all-terrain race route.
The northern city of Iquique will be a central point of the race, being the northernmost of six stages held in Chile, as well as a rest day. In order to improve the comfort of the riders, cars and trucks will rest on January 10, while the motorbikes and quads will pause on January 12.
“The Dakar is an important window to show the beauty of our regions and our organizational capacity,” said Chile’s Sport Undersecretary Nicole Sáez at the event launch in Paris.
Sáez added that the race is an opportunity for each of the participating countries to work together on a world-class sporting event and to show off the best of each nation. While the host cities of individual stages were not announced at the race launch, Chile will chose site that highlight the wide range of culture and tradition in the country for the huge international audience of the race.
Chile’s Atacama Desert, the driest in the world, is a central part of the route through the country and has proven too much for many participants in previous editions of the race. The rally be even more challenging in 2015, with three marathon stages for bikes, cars and trucks through the arid landscape. In these stages, competitors cannot receive assistance from their mechanics, only other competitors in the race.
Last year Chile saw its first victory in the Dakar Rally after Ignacio Casale crossed the Valaparaíso finish line in first place on his quad bike. Having previously raced in the motorcycle and truck categories, the multi-talented racer is now considering racing in a car across the rugged route.
Among others making the switch to the car category are France’s five-time Dakar winner Cyril Despres, who will be racing for the Peugeot team which is returning to the race after a long absence.
Casale won’t be the only Chilean looking for a place on the podium. Francisco “Chaleco” Lopez will look to build on his best finish of third, having crashed out in 2014. Daniel Gouet was Chile’s best on the bike last year, finishing eighth. In the quads, Victor Gallegos had a strong performance in his debut Dakar, finishing in fifth place.
The race will begin at Argentina’s presidential palace on January 4 before returning to the Casa Rosada on January 17.