6 days until the 2010 Dakar Rally
Deserts, vineyards and coastal resorts: Dakar Rally as holiday destination
Wolfsburg (27 December 2009). The toughest test in cross country rallying is, at the same time, a worthwhile journey: When, at the same place as last year, Volkswagen tackles operation 'title defence' following the historical Dakar Rally victory in 2009 in Argentina and Chile, the drivers and co-drivers will be in awe of spectacular landscape from 1 January 2010. "The competitors expect an even tougher test than in previous years during the 2010 'Dakar'. The world's driest region plays a leading role during the second running in South America: No less than four of the 14 stages will be held in the Atacama Desert," explains Volkswagen Motorsport Director Kris Nissen.
Once more across the South American continent, from the Atlantic to the Pacific and back: In addition to towering dunes of deep sand, two Andes-crossings with altitudes of up to 4,700 metres above sea level and also fast gravel stages on hard subsoil number among the daily challenges.
"You can describe the 'Dakar' with the catchwords varied, demanding and inspiring," says last year's winner Dirk von Zitzewitz. The man from North Germany triumphed as co-driver with Giniel de Villiers in a Volkswagen Race Touareg. "Varied because completely different terrain awaits us every day. Demanding because the challenges in the 'Dakar' grow traditionally from year to year, and inspiring because we will encounter once again unbelievable hospitality and unbridled enthusiasm for the rally throughout Argentina and Chile."
A highlight directly at the start: With the ceremonial start in the Argentinean capital Buenos Aires on 1 January 2010 the Dakar Rally forms the prelude to the national celebrations commemorating 200 years of independence. The neighbouring country Chile, in which seven of the 14 "Dakar" stages are held, also celebrates an even-numbered birthday: The independence process started there 200 years ago.
>From Buenos Aires via Cordoba and La Rioja to Fiambala - there, where the 2009 Dakar Rally was as good as decided by a mercilessly tough stage - is the setting for the first scene of the 2010 event. The first sporting highpoint awaits the drivers in the form of the first Andes crossing over the San Francisco Pass and 4,726 metres above sea-level. The seven stages in as many days in Chile and the ubiquitous Atacama Desert form the heart of the Dakar Rally. The world's driest region, 100 times drier than Death Valley sets the scene for four stages. From Copiapo via Antofagasta to Iquique and back again - the Great North, a plateau zone with the saltpetre-rich boulder and stone desert, is the most demanding part of the "Dakar" from the technological and sporting aspects. Iquique, the most northern point of the rally and popular holiday resort for surfers owes its pleasant climate and high humidity, in contrast to the weather conditions inland, to the coastal Cordilleras which shield the Atacama Desert from Orographic rainfall. Antofagasta, booming and most important port in Northern Chile, hosts the rest day on 9 January during which no stage is held. The "Dakar" armada works its way forward along the coast via the seaside resort La Serena to Santiago.
>From Santiago the rally armada returns, after eight days in Chile, across the Andes for a second time to Argentina and the final showdown. From San Juan with quite probably the world's most bizarre place of pilgrimage, the suburb Valecito where a priest blesses about 200 cars and their owners Sunday for Sunday, the rally route runs through the fertile regions to San Rafael. The wine city with its tree-adorned avenues is a sight worth seeing, it rests as oasis within its own unique water system which forms a genuine Eldorado for canoeists and rafters. The legendary Pampa is scene of the final two stages of the "Dakar" and the neat and peaceful small town Santa Rosa the final station before the rally finish in Buenos Aires is reached after fast gravel sections.
Dirk von Zitzewitz hankers after the 14 daily stages - and not only from the sporting aspect. "The landscape is unbelievably fascinating. My most vivid memories are of the dune sections around San Rafael which are on the agenda again this year, or on the incredibly luscious and varied stretch between La Rioja and Fiambala, where craggy sections, soft sand dunes and gravel fields alternate. Fantastic. However, when I contest the 'Dakar' my concentration is focussed entirely on the sport - there is little time for the beauty of the land."