On January the 2nd we will see the 37th running of the epic and brutal Dakar rally, the pinnacle of any drivers rallying career and certainly the most challenging. The 2016 event will span a greulling 9332 killometres across South America through Argentina and Bolivia with 354 competitors taking part.
As you may or may not know the Dakar rally was orginally founded as the Paris-Dakar rally in 1978 and would journey through Africa to Senegal, however since the world has became unfortunately much less safe, the location of the rally was changed in 2009 to South America. At its highest point across the deserts and mountains the drivers will reach 4,900 metres, just 400 metres or so lower than Everest base camp, a challenge then for even the most experienced of drivers, such as this years entrants 9 time WRC champion Sebastian Loeb and Mikko Hirvonen, a 13-time event winner.
What we are most excited about however is the entrance of our very own Harry Hunt. The 27 year old former rally driver has ventured into a competition where experience tends to be key and many drivers embark on such a feat towards the end of their career however Harry has plenty of credentials backing him. He won the 2012 Intercontinental Rally Challenge two-wheel-drive Cup. In that same year, he won his class by 13 minutes on the final round of the championship bringing him now to his main focus of winning a long-distance rally like the Dakar, and away from “stage” rallying which he has been so dominant in.
To win such an endurance rally like the Dakar of course you need an excellent machine to accompany an excellent driver, and that is were the MINI All4 comes in. MINI of course has won the Dakar the last 4 years in a row, most recently with Qatar driver Nasser Al-Attiyah and navigator Matthieu Baumel at the helm so we should be in no doubt the vehicle has the means to get him there. Harry’s biggest obstacle perhaps will not be the mechanical beast which he pilots however, but the searing temperatures he faces, frequently reaching 60c in the cockpit throughout the rally and will see him burn an astonishing 66,300 calories for the entire journey. Harry has been preparing for this test in a variety of ways, doing 50 minute cycling sessions in a heat chamber at St Mary’s University in London, which you can see below, and also competiting in the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge and the Rallye Oillibya du Maroc in late 2015 to give himself the best acclimatization possible before the race begins.
As we hurtle towards what is sure to be a truly epic race, we were lucky enough to get an insight into the five things Harry simply can’t live without for Dakar 2016.
1. Racing kit
“It seems pretty obvious, but the most important thing I’ll be packing for Dakar 2016 is my racing kit. This comprises of the all-important helmet, which not only protects my head but also allows me to communicate with my co-driver Andy Schulz via the intercom throughout the race. There is also my Walero fireproof underwear, which should the worst happen, will protect my tender bits for as long as I need to get out of the car. Then there’s my Union Jack race-suit, and my fireproof shoes and gloves. The kit’s designed to be lightweight but I still sweat a lot: it’s like wearing thick woolly pyjamas! It’s all vital equipment though: I simply couldn’t compete without it.”
“It can be quite noisy at night in the bivouac so I’ll be packing noise cancelling headphones. We only get a few hours sleep a night during Dakar so I need to make every minute count so headphones are essential for that.”
3. Sleeping bag
“For the endurance stage of Dakar we set up camp next to the car. We will have driven around 1000 kilometres. A few hours sleep will be essential, so I’ll be packing a comfortable sleeping bag. When they ran Dakar in Africa, apparently you used to be kept awake by lions roaring at night. Now I think it’s just snoring that keeps everyone awake!”
4. Sat phone
“We aren’t allowed any form of GPS device in the car so that rules out my phone and watch so an essential piece of kit will be the sat phone. We will use this to communicate with the team to relay information about the car, and it will be really important should we get into trouble. My co-driver Andy is the master of operating bits of kit like that…”
5. Sun tan lotion
“Much of my time will be spent in the car during Dakar where the cabin temperature can reach up to 50 degrees centigrade. But for those occasions where I’m in the sun, I’ll certainly be putting on some SPF 30. In South America it’s the height of the summer: driving on the Dakar is tough enough as it is, without adding sunburn into the mix.”
Keep tabs on Harry Hunt’s journey to Dakar through @harryhuntdakar