1986: Paris-Algiers-Dakar. The toughest test.
The seventh edition of the Dakar Rally was unique for a very important reason: it was the longest course ever raced on in the history of the competition. Though the special segments added up to slightly more than half the entire distance, the entire course covered a distance of 15,000 km. Given these exceptional circumstances, it comes as no surprise that only 20 % of the participants managed to reach the finish line that year.
The prologue stage is worthy of note: leaving Versailles, a snow storm lashed the riders during a short stretch of the race, doubtless a singular start to the competition that presaged a particularly demanding rally.
1992: Paris-Sirte-Cape Town. Racing across a continent.
We now go back to the year of the Barcelona Olympics, to revisit what was doubtless the most international of all Dakar Rallies. The course traversed no less than ten different countries. Leaving the start line in Paris, competitors were tasked with crossing the African continent, from the landing point in Libya all the way down to South Africa.
Over the course of the race, riders would go across 10 different countries, including Nigeria, Chad, the Central African Republic, Cameroon, the Congo, Angola, and Namibia. Curiously, Senegal was not included in this list, this being the first Dakar course that did not end at the city after which the competition is named. A total of 169 participants reached Cape Town, where the finish line was located. Despite the length of the course, more than half of participants made it to the end, in large measure thanks to the use GPS technologies by the riders.
2005: Barcelona-Dakar. A massive competition.
In 2005, a total of 688 vehicles - 464 competitors and 224 backups - set off from Barcelona. This is the largest number of participants known by the history of the rally. Only 215 vehicles reached the finish line, more than two thirds of competitors being disqualified. The bad weather during stage seven, the segment leading from Zouerat to Tichit, made many competitors finish this part of the race very late and in highly precarious conditions, which is why special stage eight, from Tichit to Tidjikja, was cancelled when the weather did not improve.
Following these harsh trials, stage nine of the race was witness to current Repsol rider Isidre Esteve's first victory at the Dakar Rally. The Catalan rider also enjoyed the support of Repsol that year and put the year behind him having secured an impressive fourth place on his KTM motorcycle.
2014: Rosario-Salta-Valparaiso. Dakar's most competitive edition.
The inclusion of Bolivia in the Dakar Rally, which has been held in South America since 2009, meant a new stage in which motorcycle and quad riders faced courses across plateaus at over 3,700 meters above the ground. Cars and trucks took a detour down an alternative path. This, however, did not spare them the high temperatures they were exposed to during the fifth stage of the race, which was shortened to prevent greater difficulties stemming from the intense heat.
This edition witnessed the largest total and relative number of timed segments of all rallies held in South America. With over 5,500 kilometres of special sections that added up to more than half the entire distance, we can say that, without a doubt, the 2014 edition was the most competitive we have seen in recent years.
2017: Asunción- La Paz- Buenos Aires. An intense course.
With temperature differences above 50º c and sections at over 5,000 meters above the ground, to say that the 2017 edition was the most intense of the South American Dakar would not be an exaggeration. This is also the year in which Isidre Esteve returned to the competition with Repsol's support, securing an impressive fourth place in his category.
This result is the outcome of his vast experience in the world of the rally, the support of a great team, and, in Isidre's case, the difference made by the Smart Cushion. With its harsh conditions, the 2017 Dakar was the trial that put the ingenuity and competitive skills of the Repsol driver to the test. The results speak for themselves: Isidre will return to the 2018 Dakar Rally with Repsol's support, intent of being more competitive than ever with a great car and the best lubricants he could hope for.