Dakar Rally Navigation
Dakar Rally Navigation

Dakar Rally Navigation is critical to performance and safety. The goal is to not make any navigational mistakes that could result in a crash, penalties, poor performance, or getting lost. By Christophe Barriere-Varju (Dream Racer)

Previously on Dream Racer | News we talked about the importance of the first bivouac and to stay humble, we also talked about how to start racing the first stages of the Dakar Rally. In this article I want to touch on the topic of ‘Navigation.’

A road book containing notes for the next day race is given to each competitor at the completion of the previous stage. Racers easily spend 1h – 1h30 marking the road book with different colors. I briefly explain the choice of colors in the film Dream Racer but basically I like to use three colors.

  • Red/Pink for danger zones (I, II, III)
  • Green for change of direction
  • Blue for way points and speed zones

The reason we use color is to quickly assess a situation as some notes are fairly close to each others. Obviously level II and level III danger zones are the ones that you do not want to mess up with. You do not want to ignore them, they are here for a reason – your safety.

Better lose a few seconds on a danger that could have been ignored than doing an undo because you either ignored it, you were out of sync with the road book, or simply too far off track. Any of these can end your race too early.

Each note in the road book is broken down in three sections:

  1. Distance
  2. Drawing
  3. Notes

Every opportunity a racer gets to reset his trip master to the correct kilometre is so important. The drawing gives you a visual of the surrounding around you so that you roughly know where you are, and the third column gives you finer details such as waypoint to find, compass heading etc.

There is a lexicon all racers must memorize and be familiar with.

Dakar Rally Lexicon
Dakar Rally Lexicon

Here is an example of a road book page. I thought I’d share an old African Dakar road book for ‘memory-sake’

Roadbook Dakar Rally
Road Book Dakar Rally

Navigating becomes a lot more complex in Sand Dunes because the fastest route is never a straight line, distances on your trip master change constantly because of your choice of dunes, and you must constantly watch a few dunes ahead for the overall direction that you need to maintain. Obviously resetting your trip master to the correct distance can become problematic when you don’t have a co-pilot as there is lots of things to do, and those do not include lifting your bike up!

This video from Sam Sunderland offers some great insights as to the complexity of navigation in the Dakar Rally.

You can also listen to Matthieu Baumel, a great navigator in the cars category.

The Dakar Rally is not a sprint race, it is an endurance and attrition race with 9,000+ kilometers of dangers. Navigation is the main ingredient – hurry and you will crash, be too slow and you will become sleep deprived really fast.

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If you are a Dakar Rally fan, make sure to watch 10x Award Winner Film, DREAM RACER. Dream Racer is the only film in the Dakar History to have won any awards and it is the most awarded motorcycle film in history. Available on Blu-Ray or DVD, or you can watch it On Demand right away.


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