Before it all breaks out, let’s go at least virtually through the stages as they come after. The organizers prepared thirteen stages with one rest day.
Sunday January 5/ Stage 1: Rosario – San Luis
“Establishing their position”
Liaison section: 629 km
Special stage: 180 km
The competitors will wake up early to set off along the road in the region of Cordoba and start the race on some narrow tracks which will require the utmost vigilance. Each one will still be very fresh allowing them to tackle the stony sections or the blind jumps serenely. The competitors’ driving skills will be rewarded at the finish, where they will have already clocked up 800 kilometres. Although the gaps will not be significant at this stage of the race, it is nevertheless important to maintain their position in the part of the standings that they are aiming for!
Monday January 6/ Stage 2: San Luis – San Rafael
“Grey dunes go hand in hand with surprises!”
Liaison section: 365 km (trucks)
Special stage: 400 km (trucks)
The fastest special stage of the rally, at least for its first part, will also be the one where drivers will have to face the first dunes. And it won’t just be a brief encounter with sand: in the last 100 kilometres, the exploration of the grey dunes of Nihuil will be even more intensive than during previous visits. The sand is more firm there, but the experience will provide a great deal of insight about each of the competitors’ technical skills. In short it will be a veritable test.
Tuesday January 7/ Stage 3: San Rafael – San Juan
“Aconcagua as a landmark”
Liaison section: 295 km (trucks)
Special stage: 301 km (trucks)
The competitors of the 2014 Dakar will experience their first taste of the mountains by passing through the Pre-Andes. The Aconcagua Volcano stands 6,962m high and will observe the progress of the vehicles, of which a part will rehearse their high mountain driving techniques. The motorcyclists will climb up 4,300 metres during their special stage, on a ridgeline where they will have the impression of towering over the whole of America! The descent will bring them back to the tough reality of the drivers of the Dakar, as they will only have finished the first part of this marathon stage. They will have to ensure the mechanics for their own vehicles at the isolated bivouac which has been set up for them.
Wednesday January 8/ Stage 4: San Juan – Chilecito
“Mountains and countryside”
Liaison section: 211 km (trucks)
Special stage: 657 km (trucks)
The strategy of the motorcyclists will come into play: initially their navigational skills will be seriously tested at the beginning of the morning, and then they will be faced with the problem of worn tyres, as they have already been over-used the day before. As for the drivers of cars, they will have an even more demanding route to tackle in the countryside. The Dakar’s competitors haven’t faced a special stage this long since the historical one from Zouerat to Tichit in 2005! They will have to cross rivers, descend the canyons in a Wild West setting and beware of the other participants: as these terrains are often wide open, it will be entirely possible to overtake fellow competitors.
Thursday January 9/ Stage 5: Chilecito – Tucuman
“A sleepless night in Tucuman!”
Liaison section: 384 km
Special stage: 527 km
After two race days with completely separate routes, everyone will gather together to tackle the longest stage of the rally. They will need to be extremely resistant to overcome these two sections of the special stage which will primarily feature sand. All day long the competitors will make headway on off-piste sections: those who have poorly assessed the limits of their engine will constantly be on the verge of overheating and all the more so, as the region’s temperatures are generally very high. At the bivouac in Tucuman, the candidates for the podium will have been whittled down to a select few, as many of them will no longer be a part of this elite group. For many others, their timing and mechanical mishaps will only become apparent in the middle of the night.
Friday January 10/ Stage 6: Tucuman – Salta
“The quest for the best time”
Liaison section: 394 km (trucks)
Special stage: 156 km (trucks)
Once they have left Tucuman, the cars will head north and drive along part of the renowned Ruta 40, and continue on in the heart of one of Argentina’s most beautiful landscapes. The possibilities to widen the gap will be limited but the most skilled drivers may be able to seize the opportunity of adding a stage to their list of wins. A new trip to the mountains will take motorcyclists to the banks of the rivers. They will have to remain vigilant until the very end of the stage as the region is frequented to a great extent by animals of all sizes. Then they will finally be able to rest.
Saturday January 11/ Rest day: Salta
Reaching the rest day represents a major intermediary goal on the Dakar. Some of the rally’s newcomers, who are conscious of how tough the challenge is, may even regard this as a tiny victory. So the drivers and teams will be welcomed with the honours of a halfway podium at the bivouac in Salta, where a first celebration has been organised for them. Thousands of spectators are expected to come and discover the Dakar Village, as they did in Tucuman last year, where they will have the opportunity to immerse themselves in the world of the rally, take advantage of the great variety of entertainment and activities on offer and meet the race’s key figures. It will also allow the competitors to boost their motivation levels and recharge their batteries.
Sunday January 12/ Stage 7: Salta – Salta (only cars and trucks)
“The all-inclusive loop”
Liaison section: 230 km
Special stage: 525 km
This mega loop with a 500-km long special stage on the agenda will test the teams’ ability to adapt to changes of pace. After stony terrains at the beginning of the day, some top speeds will be recorded in the second part of the stage, and then the drivers’ road techniques will be tested, and all of this at an average altitude of almost 3,500m. To end this highly emotional day, they will have to cross a vast salt flat extending over twenty or so kilometres: a straight stretch which will make the competitors’ heads spin.
Monday January 13/ Stage 8: Salta – Calama (only cars and trucks)
Liaison section: 510 km
Special stage: 302 km
Today the competitors will cross the Andes Cordillera, to begin the Chilean part of the rally. A special transition stage has been marked out there for the last day that cars will progress without overtaking motorcycles and quad bikes. The timed section of the day will be accessible to skilled drivers who are at ease on fast tracks in a closed environment. Drivers are advised to pay attention to their position from the outset to limit the number of overtaking manoeuvres, even though the strict standards regarding the use of the Sentinel system will be carefully monitored at the end of the day.
Tuesday January 14/ Stage 9: Calama – Iquique
“A steep drop: thrills guaranteed”
Liaison section: 29 km
Special stage: 422 km
The 2014 Dakar will reach its most northern point in Iquique, where the competitors will see the ocean for the first time this year. Above all, the drivers and teams will discover the Atacama Dunes again after a first part of a special stage which will be rather tedious. Dune specialists will be in command over a distance of almost 150km. Thrills will be guaranteed at the very end of the day, on the last three kilometres of the descent to Iquique: there is more than a 30% difference in height from start to finish and it is almost not recommended to break. The law of gravitation takes on its full meaning: the bivouac is not far away!
Wednesday January 15/ Stage 10: Iquique – Antofagasta
“It wouldn’t be the Dakar without fesh-fesh!”
Liaison section: 58 km
Special stage: 631 km
The special stage, split into two sections with very different features, will begin with the descent towards the shores of the Pacific. The advance gained in the stage the day before may will be increased in the sand during the first two hundred kilometres. Even more skill will be required to tackle the sections of fesh-fesh in the second part of the stage. Once this difficult area is behind the drivers, they will all be delighted to twist and wind along the region’s mine tracks, and in particular to be welcomed by the majestic arch of La Portuda, a stone’s throw from the bivouac in Antofagasta.
Thursday January 16/ Stage 11: Antofagasta – El Salvador
“The Atacama, in all its splendid”
Liaison section: 144 km
Special stage: 605 km
In addition to the distance, here the competitors will be put to the test by all the difficulties offered by the Atacama Desert… and will have to display all the qualities required for off-road races. After the mine tracks and the many rivers to cross, the competitors will have to distinguish themselves in the heart of the Dunes of Copiapo: the fastest motorcyclists are expected to spend seven hours behind the wheel. Needless to say that on this decisive day there will be no shortage of opportunities for competitors to make a winning comeback in the race. This will be the key stage of the 2014 edition.
Friday January 17/ Stage 12: El Salvador – La Serena
“Dunes: the last ditch attempt”
Liaison section: 349 km
Special stage: 350 km
The site chosen in El Salvador at high altitude towers over the usual location of the bivouac in Copiapo. This position will ensure that the Camanchaca, the morning mist which sometimes hinders the start of the stages, will be avoided. Sand will be featured on the route again, in particular with a big string of dunes to be overcome at the end of the special stage. And if there are dunes, this automatically means that vehicles will be blocked in the sand! Therefore, in the categories where competitors are neck and neck, the leaders may put themselves at risk.
Saturday January 18/ Stage 13: La Serena – Valparaiso
“Watch out for the needles”
Liaison section: 378 km
Special stage: 157 km
Before admiring the hillsides brought to life by the houses in Valparaiso, the competitors will have to climb the hills planted with cacti during the rally’s last special stage. The pride and joy of crossing the finish line is drawing closer, but the statistics are formal: every year one or several drivers come unstuck during this final exercise so prudence is required! Even this close to the finish, vigilance is the competitors’ best ally to ensure their presence on the final podium.