Nasser Al-Attiyah had to retire from the 2024 Dakar Rally
Nasser Al-Attiyah had to retire from the 2024 Dakar RallyDakar Rally

Vijay Parmar on the 2024 Dakar Rally

Mountain Man Vijay Parmar pens down his views on the 2024 Dakar Rally

The Dakar is on. Undoubtedly the greatest Rally Raid on earth. It is in its 46th, sand spewing, rock throwing, almost impossibly difficult, manifestation. 142 TV channels are showing the fortunes of riders and drivers alike, rising and falling, across the globe. Millions of people are following it everyday, in fact every minute, if you downloaded the Dakar app. Everywhere. Except India. Not a single TV Channel has dedicated coverage of the desert marathon in India. Not one. Eurosport in India, formerly known as DSport tried without much success a few years ago, but the dismal TRP ratings did not allow the programming to continue or even bother with televising the Dakar much. In short, Indians, over a billion of them, couldn't give a crap about strange looking bikes and cars tearing up a sand dune, and falling foul of a tuft of camel grass, resulting in the competitors being evacuated by a helicopter, to a dubious medical facility in Riyadh! That is why rallying in India is an extremely niche sport, with little or no interest, from the general populace. A few days ago, the road between Chandigarh and Delhi was crammed fully by at least 500 trucks heading to the Ram Mandir at Ayodhya, all carrying grain for the 'Maha-Bhandara' there. Now, that's the kind of passion one needs to see for rallying here! Whereas, we may not have the passion for the Dakar, in many ways the same behaviour, often seen on Indian motorsporting events, is also present at the Dakar - favouritism!

On the 2012 Dakar, Cyril Depres, the leading biker aboard a KTM rode into a mud hole that stopped his charge completely. Marc Coma, his KTM teammate, overtook the hapless leader and went on to win the stage. Cyril Depres, despite being quite aware of the dangers of being the first bike on the road, and knowing fully that these are the 'rubs of the green' immediately cried like a baby, in French, and the organisers, also French, immediately granted him the time lost - and more importantly the rally win! Similarly, Eryk Goczal, the 19 year old hero of the 'Challenger' category, after winning 5 of 6 stages in the 2024 Dakar, was disqualified after his car 'failed to pass technical scrutiny' conducted on the rest day, half way through the rally. His uncle, Michel Goczal, running in second spot, of the same category, was disqualified as well for the same reason. Their clutch plates had traces of carbon fibre. Now as per Article 286 of Appendix J, Rule 8.1, which is part of the Tech Regs of the FiA for Cross Country Rallies, the clutch mechanism and discs are 'Free'. This normally implies that the choice of clutch lies with the competitor and any material may be used. However the organisers went to great lengths to refer to a previous Rule 2.3 which says that composites are not allowed on a car unless you have explicit permission to use those parts. These include parts being constructed with titanium alloy, magnesium alloy, ceramics and carbon fibre.

Now Motorcycles, 4X4s, Trucks and SSVs use a lot of the above composite parts including steering heads (Titanium), wheels (Magnesium), brake discs (Ceramics), body work (Carbon fibre) and exhausts (Titanium) just to mention a few. When the Goczals responded by saying that a member of the scrutineering team had been informed at the pre event scrutiny, the organisers struck back by saying that the permission had to be in writing! As this permission had not been obtained in writing, both the Goczal teams, leading their SSV Challenger category were promptly disqualified! You can be sure that all the competitors could not have homologated all the composite parts in their vehicles in writing. They are so, so many! However, as this appeared to be a biased enquiry, their pleas were in vain. Strangely enough no other vehicles in any other category was scrutineered mid-event so this pointed to some team having lodged a protest. Not being able to catch the Goczals on the field they tried a dubious courtroom drama. But no protest, in writing, was shown to the Goczals, implying that the decision to check their machines was taken up 'Suo Moto'. Very strange. Even stranger was the cancellation of Eryk Goczal's mother's 'Rally Pass' a day before this drama took place. What were the organisers expecting her to do? Smuggle the offending clutch plates to a dune in the dead of night and bury the treasure under some sand, marking the spot with the proverbial 'X'? The sporting spirit of the Dakar is seriously damaged by this partisan incident. It is my opinion that the young Pole will be back next year, older and wiser, to kick ass! And he will. On a happier note, Harith Noah is flying the Indian flag high this year. Who knows, maybe next year the 'frogs' will pick on him! Nasser al Attiyah, on the other hand, is ruing the day he changed from the indestructible GR Toyota team to the Bahrain Xtreme Raid Prodrive Hunter as his ride for the 2024 Dakar! It broke down with amazing regularity, stage after stage, and Nasser, in his own words said: "I have learnt a lesson for life". I do not expect to see him behind the wheel of the BRX Hunter ever again!

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