The Dakar Rally is an epic annual off-road navigation race and extreme endurance challenge. This year from January 5 to 19, a legion of 778 competitors will take cars, trucks, buggies, quads, and motorcycles against some of the harshest conditions on Earth. This year's race takes place in Saudi Arabia and will cover about 5,000 miles. Here's how you can follow it from home.
Get Up to Speed on the Dakar Rally
A quick download of context: Dakar is called "Dakar" because it started as a navigation race from Paris, France to Dakar, Senegal in the 1970s. The format of the race then was quite similar to what it is now: A diverse range of off-road vehicles engaged in a lengthy challenge of not just racing but course-plotting. Racers get directions from a turn-by-turn road book and have to pay attention to it for days and weeks. What if you get lost? Well, that's what makes it such an epic race—the stakes are high and even today it's not uncommon to have a fatality.
But one danger that Dakar organizers reckon is "over the line" is civil unrest. When racers started getting shot at by people who didn't want them in Africa, the race got moved to South America (around 2008). The Dakar (as it was still called) was then run through countries like Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, and Peru for a few years. In 2020 it was moved to Saudi Arabia where it's been run since. I suspect that had a lot to do with the Middle Eastern country being less bothered by environmental and archaeological concerns than, say, Chile.
Another quirk of the Dakar is that it's functionally impossible to spectate in real-time. Trying to keep track of almost 800 competitors across a race course that's both vast and remote over two weeks is no small feat, even with today's technology.
But the fact remains—this may well be the most extreme motorsport initiative our species has ever concocted. And frankly, I'm not sure it will be around for all that much longer. There have certainly been acknowledgments of environmental responsibility by race organizers, but it's going to keep getting harder to justify moving an army of vehicles around natural environments for the amusement of gearheads. I guess all I'm really saying there is, if you're interested, check it out now while you still can.
2024 Dakar Rally Vehicles and Route
There are a total of 778 competitors (with hundreds more people involved in support and planning) racing the 2024 Dakar Rally. Racers will be in one of eight classes: Bike, Quad, Car, Challenger, SSV, Truck, M1000, and Classic. Challengers and SSVs are various types of buggies and UTVs. M1000 refers to "Mission 1000," the alt-fuel and future-energy category. Classic is my fave by far, with old-school vehicles that have raced in Dakar years and decades ago. The other ones are self-explanatory, though it's worth noting that SUVs are considered Cars and Trucks, in Dakar parlance, are much bigger than Ford F-150s. They're full-on cargo trucks.
The race is divided into 12 stages plus a Prologue stage. This year's race will cover about 4,903 miles, 2,937 of which are timed specials. The meanest and most interesting section is going to be a new element called 48H Chrono. As Red Bull's Dakar page explains, it's "a timed 48-hour race where the competitors have until 4 p.m. to reach one of eight bivouacs for the night. They have minimal kit and supplies and just two hours to make repairs before bedding down for the night and completing the stage from 7 a.m. the next morning."
Can you imagine? That alone is a preposterously challenging concept, let alone the whole race.
Ways To Follow the 2024 Dakar Rally
Motorsport.tv has a clean-looking interface that feels to me like the most straightforward Dakar-content delivery system you can access for free right now.
MAVTV, which provides video coverage of many different motorsports events, is promising heavy Dakar 2024 coverage. You will need to pay for it, but it's available through a wide range of providers (both streaming and via cable).
A Redditor called Pentanix has compiled this epic Guide To Following Dakar 2024 with a huge bank of links to race details, official coverage outlets, and even the social channels of a bunch of teams (which might have the best coverage of a specific vehicle type or competitor you like).
Red Bull has also put together some amazing and accessible resources for watching Dakar '24. This "everything you need to know" post is a wealth of searchable Dakar info, the "Into The Dust" show promises contextualized coverage, and I expect Red Bull's Dakar highlights page will update from 2023 to this year shortly.
I can't endorse using a VPN to spoof your computer's location, but hypothetically, if you were watching from Canada you could catch Dakar online via FloRacing. In Australia, it's available via SBS On Demand. Eurosport typically has coverage too, but oddly I can only find their 2023 Dakar content. You might have better luck.
ADVPulse has a pretty good roundup of Dakar info sources.
The Adventure Rider forum, known as ADV Rider, has a huge Dakar 2024 thread going. That would be a great place to lurk to learn about the race, from the bike side especially. That forum has been going strong forever, I remember reading it when I was a bike guide in Australia over a decade ago. Well-informed group of hardcore bike nerds on that page for sure.
The aptly named TrackingDakar.com provides a well-organized list of who's where in the race if you don't like the official site's setup.
Dakar Rally Fantasy Sports
You can play along with the race on the official Dakar Rally site here — the game is called Race To Win by Aramco, I haven't messed with it yet but it looks like you can win merch and other prizes which seems like it could be fun. There's one other wager-style site I found called Chainslayer with another gamified rally spectating program you can mess with.
There are also actual betting options if you want to wager real money on the race. Sites like Insiders Betting Digest have published odds for the event if you understand and are into that kind of thing.
Dakar 2024: Who Ya Got?
I was lucky enough to help run a spectator tour of the 2015 Dakar Rally (Argentina, Chile, Peru). It was one hell of an adventure but I have to admit I had a hard time keeping up with where competitors were in the actual race. This year, it seems coverage will be more accessible than ever and I'm looking forward to seeing some action over the next couple of weeks. Hit me up in the comments if you've got favorites or rally raid insights to share.