Insider: Desert storm! Your guide to Dakar 2016, CAR+, January 2016

Published: 04 December 2015

► Your guide to the 2016 Dakar Rally
► It’s an achievement just to finish
► Torquey motors and chunky tyres 

1) Finishing is a result, winning a bonus

Much may have changed, not least the continents on which it’s run (security fears prompted a switch to South America in 2009) but the Dakar is still hard as nails, breaking weak machinery and minds with impunity. This year’s epic will run over 2931 off-road miles and last a full two weeks (3-16 January).

Starting in Rosario and finishing in Buenos Aries, Argentina, this year’s stages will have everything: treacherous mountain tracks, suspension-crunching boulder fields and towering sand dunes.

The stages get tougher as the event progresses, forcing teams to pace themselves.

2016's route, 2931 off-road miles

2)  Remember Sebastian Loeb? He’s in it 

Fresh from being dropped from Citroen’s WTCC effort, all eyes will be on nine-time WRC champ Loeb as he jumps into a Peugeot and gets back to doing what he does best: driving flat-out over rough terrain with a slightly rotund Monegasque strapped in beside him. Will he walk it? History would suggest not, and the competition is stiff – ex-WRC rival Mikko Hirvonen and previous winners Carlos Sainz, Nasser Al-Attiyah, Nani Roma and Stephane Peterhansel – but if we’ve learned one thing about Loeb it’s that his talent makes normal rules redundant.

3) Lunatics on bikes

Some motorsport categories have different classes, but only rally raid pitches current champs Mini in with Yamahas, quads and Iveco trucks. Cars and bikes dominate, with around 100 cars and 150 bikers making up the majority of 350 or so entries. An overall winner is declared for each class.

It's a Mini on steroids, literally

4) Mad Max Cars

Top-tier entries have nothing in common with production cars, which is just as well in the case of Peugeot’s 2008 DKR16… Its carbon bodywork is built around a tubular spaceframe and double-wishbone suspension, while its mid-mounted turbodiesel chucks 350bhp and 590lb ft at the rear axle – yep, just two driven wheels – via a sequential gearbox. Chunky Michelins and twin dampers per corner help get the power down.

5) Easy to follow

Eurosport will screen a round-up of the day’s action every night at 10pm from 3-16 January. Follow for updates.

By Ben Barry

Contributing editor, sideways merchant, tyre disintegrator