Dakar Rally 2022 Preview
Image: Marcelo Maragni / Red Bull Content Pool
The 2022 Dakar Rally roars into life in early January, with Red Bull stars Toby Price and Daniel Sanders leading the charge for the Australian contingent of athletes taking part in the iconic event. Dakar is well known as one of the toughest motorsports events on the planet and the athletes brave enough to take on the challenge are certainly cut from a different cloth. Fresh off his 4th place finish in his debut performance in 2021, Daniel "Chucky" Sanders returns with another year of brutal rally racing experience under his belt and his eyes set firmly on the top spot, while two-time winner Toby Price looks to bounce back from a heartbreaking injury-cruelled end to his 2021 campaign and claim his crown once again.
For its 44th edition, which will run from 2-14 January, the Dakar will pay its third visit to Saudi Arabia. In 2020, Dakar introduced its competitors and teams to the country. In 2021, they were able to familiarise themselves with its rather unique conditions, and in 2022, the exploration of Saudi Arabia continues.
The Dakar Rally is heading south. Both 2020 and 2021 editions were spent exploring the diverse landscapes of the Saudi deserts, leading event organisers to seek out an even more formidable challenge for competitors in 2022. Riders and drivers alike will take on an area known as The Empty Quarter in this year's event, an area that provides as much mystery as it does sand. Navigation will be a crucial component to success, as participants find themselves surrounded by vast stretches of sands, dunes, and utter nothingness. We can't wait!
2022 Dakar Rally Map
Prologue begins on the 1st of January, 2022. Setting the start order for the first stage of the event, the prologue offers riders a chance to familiarise themselves with the kinds of terrain they'll be facing over the next 8000km. The city of Ha'il played host to a stage in the 2020 Dakar as well as the rest day of Dakar 2021. Now it finds itself in charge of the scrutineering process and the start of the rally itself, and the self-proclaimed capital of the nomads in Saudi Arabia could not be more perfect for it.
Toby Price taking on the desert sands of Saudi Arabia. Image: Eric Vargiolu / DPPI / Red Bull Content Pool
From the start of the first stage on January 2, riders will spend a week tackling the harsh desert terrain as they make their way to the city of Riyadh. The capital of Saudi Arabia, home to some six million people, has been a mainstay on the Dakar route and will this year play host to the rest day on January 8 at the midpoint of the rally. With some truly marvelous and innovative architecture on display in the growing city, athletes and their crews will no doubt enjoy the brief respite in Riyadh before taking on the second half of the rally.
From Riyadh, riders head southwest on a circuitous route towards their final destination; the finish line in the city of Jeddah. All those completing the 2022 Dakar Rally will be able to enjoy a path that takes them along the coastline of the Red Sea as a just reward for their incredible efforts over the past two weeks as they approach the final stage of the gruelling experience. The finish podium for the event will take place on January 14 and, fingers crossed, more than one of our Aussie legends will be there to enjoy it!
Image: DPPI / Red Bull Content Pool
Fan favourite Daniel Sanders, AKA Chucky, has been a revelation to the global rally racing scene. The 2019 ISDE Outright Champion has made a seamless transition from Enduro racing to the desert program and he's coming in with a full head of steam to the 2022 Dakar event. The Factory GASGAS star had some huge results in 2021, ending up third in the world championship, and with an epic program behind him has his eyes set on the ultimate glory of 2022 Dakar Champion. After his exceptional debut performance in the 2021 event, and with another year of experience and hunger under his belt, there's no reason to think he won't be right in the mix to take out the prestigious title come January.
"What an awesome event. 12 days of brutal riding and the landscape we crossed was phenomenal. It was definitely the hardest race I’ve ever done! - Daniel Sanders after the 2021 event, where he finished 4th.
It's interesting to note that Chucky's main competition for the 2022 event may not come in the form of 2021 Dakar winner Kevin Benavides, nor the 2021 Rally World Champion Matthias Walker, but fellow Australian and two-time Dakar champion Toby Price.
Image: Naim Chidiac / Red Bull Content Pool
The 2016 and 2019 Dakar Champion is one of the most recognised and respected names in the motorcycling world, with his incredible ability, tenacity, and heart matched only by the glory of his iconic mullet. After his 2021 campaign ended in heartbreak after a devastating crash and subsequent injury while in a position to challenge for the win, Toby is looking to come back with a bang this year. If there's anyone who knows how to rebound from serious injury to climb back to the top, it's Toby Price, and there is good reason he's considered one of the favourites to take the 2022 crown.
"The level of competition at Dakar continues to get higher. My goal is to attack with the hope of another podium finish, but we are all going there to try to win. And the ultimate goal is to be on the top step of the podium holding the big trophy." - Toby Price.
Along with Toby and Chucky, fellow Aussie rider Andrew Houlihan is slated to follow up his 2021 Dakar debut with another crack in the 2022 campaign. Both Andrew and fellow Aussie debutant Michael Burgerss put in a herculean effort to finish the race in 2021 and we can't wait to see Andrew back at it again this year! Simply making it to Dakar is an achievement in itself, but to complete the event in the positions that they did as rookies is something well worth celebrating. Good luck this time around legend!
Image: Flavien Duhamel / Red Bull Content Pool
With competitors from over 70 nations around the world represented at the 2022 Dakar Rally, there's no doubt this is one of the biggest motorsports events on the global calendar. We can't wait to watch and cheer on our Aussie stars from home!
In the meantime, check out the Bike Highlights from the 2021 event for a taste of what is to come!
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