The biggest stage on earth! Every day, tens of thousands of spectators gather to see rally raid contenders drive by. Welcoming them calls for significant logistics to put on a great motorsport show and guarantee viewers' safety at the same ...
The biggest stage on earth!
Every day, tens of thousands of spectators gather to see rally raid contenders drive by. Welcoming them calls for significant logistics to put on a great motorsport show and guarantee viewers' safety at the same time.
What a show! In Argentina and in Chile, fans of mechanical wonders are willing to travel hundreds of miles for a moment of emotion. Those who gather along the tracks of the Dakar special stages are looking for just that rare instant that will delight them: e.g. admire Carlos Sainz's sand gliding technique, see Robby Gordon and his Hummer deal with a series of bumps and finish the day witnessing the ordeal of some amateur riders or spotting a damaged vehicle ending his journey towed by an assistance truck. Giving spectators the opportunity to see all of this with their own eyes means that some important safety measures must be taken as well. This is why each special stage has some clearly marked "spectator zones" that have been designed to put the public in the best possible conditions. Determining the location of such spectator zones was done ahead of the raid by the rally reconnaissance teams in partnership with the authorities of the two countries concerned.
In the rally raid, the "spectator zones" are communicated 48 hours prior to contenders racing by so that the sites would not be prematurely flooded with people. Indeed, it is then that the organization vehicles start putting up the signs and ribbon fences. While the most impatient spectators are already settling down, the different stakeholders in charge of safety and first aid also settle down: police forces, officers in charge of setting up the first aid tent, ambulance drivers and sometimes firefighters. For several hours, the endless movements of bikes, cars and trucks keep the audience entertained. But vigilance is rule number one.
Indeed, on some sites, this natural open-air stage can be literally invaded by the crowds. Here again, the organization must be flexible enough to deploy means that match the situation. For the finish in Iquique for instance, spectators had come in real masses: "We soon realized that there would be a lot of people to see the sand slide, explains Gregory Murac, in charge of relations with the local authorities. So we asked for police back-up to extend the viewing area. But when things get out of hand, you have to find other solutions still." For instance, the finish of the special stage in San Juan called for a slightly more radical solution to remove all risk of accident: "the zone was saturated with people; so we decided to move the stop point 6km further. So vehicles could slow down sooner and drove by the viewers at a slower speed," concludes Gregory Murac.