The longest race on the planet By the staff of Dirt Wheels

Marcelo Medeiros (#183), Team Marcelo Medeiros, Yamaha YFM700R quad action during Stage 10 of the 2022 Dakar Rally between Wadi Ad Dawasir and Bisha on January 12, 2022, in Bisha, Saudi Arabia.

In its five-decade history, the Dakar Rally has fielded top riders and drivers from all over the globe to take on the two-week stage race. The U.S. fan base has grown in recent years as American competitors started entering the UTV (SSV) and ATV classes.

Italo Pedemonte (CHL), Enrico Racing Team, Yamaha YFM 700 R SE early in the 2022 Dakar Rally around Hail, Saudi Arabia.

In 2020, the Dakar Rally found a new home in the desert of Saudi Arabia on terrain very similar to the Southwestern U.S.

Pablo Copetti (USA), Del Amo Motorsports/Yamaha Rally team, Yamaha Raptor holding onto second overall during Stage 5 of the 2022 Dakar Rally around Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
Alexandre Giroud (FRA), Yamaha Racing/SMX/Dragon, Yamaha YFZ700 getting a victory portrait at the finish of the 2022 Dakar Rally in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Photo: Julien Delfosse

Casey Currie gave Can-Am the win and was the first American to take a class title. Ricky Brabec got the win in the Motorcycle class.

Here’s Team Marcelo Medeiros’ Yamaha YFM700R in action during Stage 9. In pure Brazilian fashion, he had the most colorful Raptor of the bunch.
Dragon is a French ATV parts distributor. Each night, teams go over the quads thoroughly by changing the oil, adjusting the chain, etc. Over the rest day, the entire quad gets an overhaul.

Last year, Pablo Copetti was the first American to compete on an ATV and take a stage win. Polaris also brought over the American team of Wayne and Kristen Matlock, but wasn’t able to find success. In the Prototype class, Red Bull built a few small buggies and hired American hot shots Mitch Guthrie Jr. and Seth Quintero. Both had impressive drives and picked up multiple stage wins.

In rally, the “pits” are called the “bivouac.” This is during the 10th stage of the 2022 Dakar between Wadi Ad Dawasir and Bisha in Saudi Arabia. Photo: Charly Lopez
Left: Here’s a helicopter rescue during the 10th stage of the 2022 Dakar between Wadi Ad Dawasir and Bisha. Photo: Charly Lopez
Right: American Austin Jones and Gustavo Gugelmin of Brazil racing for Can-Am Factory gave South Racing their second T4/SSV or UTV victory. Photo: Frederic Le Floch
America’s hope for a victory in the Quad class was in the hands of Pablo Copetti. Unfortunately, motor issues did cost him the race. This silt section could have been his ultimate demise. Photo: Aurelian Vialatt

For the 2022 running, Copetti was back with sponsorship from the SoCal dealership powerhouse Del Amo and Yamaha. Pablo had new American fans and high hopes. Unfortunately, after running up front and getting a stage win, his engine expired with only a few days to go in the race.

Top: Maksimov Aleksandr (#193/RAF), Chyr Mari, Yamaha YFM 700R, Quad, W2RC in action during Stage 4 of the 2022 Dakar Rally between Al Qaysumah and Riyadh on January 5th in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Photo: Eric Vargiolu 
Kancius Laisvydas catches a little traction as his Raptor transitions from the sand to rock near Hail, Saudi Arabia. Most competitors run tire blocks or balls and very little air pressure to float over the dunes.

Seth Quintero also had drivetrain troubles that took him out of the race for the overall win in his prototype machine. Seth did break a nearly three-decade-old record for the most stage wins in a Dakar. The kid made the best of his time in Saudi Arabia and is making a name for himself on the world stage. 

Nicolas Martinez of the Dragon Rally Team’s Yamaha 700 Raptor at the start of Stage 4 of the Dakar Rally. Photo: Julien Delfosse
This is what they call a “road book.” It has directions as to where to turn and what dangers to look out for. No other navigation devices are allowed. Photo: Charly Lopez

However, it was the lesser-known name of Austin Jones who had a steady and almost trouble-free race, giving Can-Am another UTV (SSV) overall victory. We hope to see Jones   compete in a BITD or SCORE race this season as Polaris gets ready to debut the new Pro R for the race in 2023. We are sure there will be an American and other world-class drivers going for the win in all classes.

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