One of the rule changes introduced in the 2021 Dakar limits title contenders in the motorbike category to just six rear tyres for the whole race. The aim is to make the rally safer.
It is a question as old as motorbike racing itself: how can one go faster than the competition without being too reckless? Even the Dakar has to come up with an answer to this dilemma for the world of motor sports, as bikers seek to squeeze every last ounce of speed from their machines while organisers place the safety of the competitors at the heart of their concerns.
Bikers, manufacturers, organisers, federations and other stakeholders came together in Lisbon in autumn to bridge the gap between these ambitions. “It has become obvious that motorbikes go too fast nowadays”, stresses David Castera, the director of the Dakar. “Today’s 450 cc single-cylinders are just as fast as the 800 cc twin-cylinders of the late 1980s, and they accelerate even faster to boot. There are two main approaches to boosting safety.
Active safety is about improving the equipment used, for example, by requiring the use of airbags, whereas passive safety can be increased by capping the speed of the bikers and similar rules. Of course, we will have to limit engine power sooner or later, but for now I would rather work to bring rally raids back to their original spirit. Too many bikers want to ride as if it were a motocross race, but a rally raid is completely different. The focus is on endurance and stamina.”
This is why navigation was placed back at the heart of the Dakar last year and why top bikers will not be allowed to use more than six rear tyres throughout the two weeks of racing. “Going full gas on stony terrain will no longer be an option for anyone who wants to win this race”, insists David Castera. “They will have to take care of their gear to make it to the finish.” Jordi Pérez was in charge of marking the batch of six tyres for each of the competitors subject to the new rule. “36 bikers are affected”, explains the Spaniard, who is serving as a technical scrutineering official.
“In addition to the Elite bikers, we have several competitors with a shot at victory, either because they have the support of a manufacturer or because they are experienced enough to fight for the top places. The tyres all have to be the same model and are branded with a red-hot iron. We also put a special sticker on them and paint them with a stroke of coloured reactive marker.” As abrasive as it is, even the Saudi sand should be unable to erase these markings, thus ensuring that everyone is on an even footing.
By: Dakar official website