How to do the Dakar Rally?
July 28, 2011 3:59 PM   Subscribe

How can I race in the Dakar Rally? The catch: I've never been in a race before, ever, and I have no idea what an FIM license is.

I'd like to, at some point in my life, take part in the Dakar Rally. However, their website has a list of things each participant needs, and one of the items is a 2012 FIM or FIA international license. Googling led me down a rabbit hole of racing unions and organizations, so I'm hoping that someone can explain this for me. How do I get involved in the rally world?
posted by reductiondesign to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (12 answers total)
Enter a smaller rally and get some experience: try the 24 Hours of LeMons.
posted by sninctown at 4:08 PM on July 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

LeMons is not a rally. It's cool. But it's not a rally.

What you want to do is start by reading about Bill Caswell. By the time you've read about him, you'll have a good idea of where to start, even if you don't want to go about things in the same crazy way he did.
posted by The World Famous at 4:14 PM on July 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

The Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) is going to be your go-to here. You'll probably have to get a competition license from them to be able to parlay that into an FIA license. FIM is the international motorcycle racing license.

But, it's more than just filling out a couple of forms. You'll have to get involved in Club racing at SCCA, finish some races at regional levels, then move onto national races. When the Dakar people make reference to amateurs, they don't necessarily mean novices. It's like bowling in an amateurs tournament. Just because they don't make a living with their sport doesn't mean they don't know what they're doing.

The 14,000 Euro Dakar entry fee will probably be the smallest outlay that you'll have in this journey. Racing ain't cheap.
posted by hwyengr at 4:15 PM on July 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

How can I race in the Dakar Rally?

Think of a large number. Double it. This is the budget that you will fail to stick to and will probably only cover the cost of building your car and getting to the event. Then add event costs themselves. The Dakar is one of the most expensive single events there is in motor racing. You can do it cheaply, but 'cheap' as in 'not as much as the big guys' rather than 'wow that's not much money'.

Get involved in regional rallying. Forget about the Dakar until you are actually good at rallying and know what you are at. People die in that event very often so it is not a romantic desert jaunt by any means. Find your local rallying club and see about getting a membership. Then go to a local rallying school and take a decent (probably 3-5 day) course if you can afford it. If you can't afford a 5 day course in a rally school, do not pass go, do not collect $200 and get back in front of the TV. Motor sport isn't for you.

It is possible to do regional rallies for surprisingly little money - hit that research first and see what sort of numbers you come up with. Bear in mind that travel is really expensive when you need to carry a car and equipment back and forth so stay local while you learn, get a good co driver and have fun. Walk - lots - before you try and run.
posted by Brockles at 4:28 PM on July 28, 2011 [4 favorites]

Oh, and seconding that the 24 hours of Lemons has precisely nothing at all to do with rallying. LIke none. Other than the fact they both use cars.

It is good cheap racing, though. Great fun, but not related.
posted by Brockles at 4:30 PM on July 28, 2011

And in case you didn't know, FIA is the organization that runs Formula 1. The FIA Class C license, of course, doesn't qualify you for F1 driving, but that's how big-time it is.
posted by hwyengr at 4:39 PM on July 28, 2011

FIA is the organisation that oversees all motorsport internationally (or more accurately, all international motorsport) as well as many other road car related stuff and general road safety arms. It does not run Formula 1, but it is the governing body.

It is a BIG deal, but it is just the licensing body in this case.
posted by Brockles at 4:46 PM on July 28, 2011

You really want to try your hand at lower-tier rallies before you attempt the Dakar. Seriously.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:54 PM on July 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

One thing to consider is the relative cost difference of the various vehicles that can participate in the Dakar. I have a brother-in-law who does desert endurance motorcycle racing on a shoestring budget that is a lot cheaper than racing cars.
posted by The World Famous at 5:00 PM on July 28, 2011

Absolutely seconding the idea that you get involved in your local rallying scene. Entering a rally like this as a driver is similar to getting into trans-Atlantic sailing, there are some steep learning curves before you should think about this. Many competition licenses require a certain amount of prior competition to qualify.

Start learning about sponsorship and how to fund a race team. A quick browse on the Dakar forums showed a Dakar-capable buggy selling for 66k€, a modified BMW X5 selling for 220k€ and the same X5 as a fully supported rental for the race (spares, team, the lot) for 385k€. Motorsport is a money pit. Bikes are cheaper but the required skills (and dangers) are greater.

Have you thought about starting as part of the support crew or in a car as a navigator? There are other ways to be part of an endurance race than as a driver and you can use that experience as a step towards competign yourself. Good luck!
posted by N-stoff at 5:07 PM on July 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

NASA (unfortunate acronym, I know) is an alternative to SCCA that has less of a barrier to entry, and fewer hacks driving Civics with their eyes closed.
posted by davejay at 5:13 PM on July 28, 2011

Along with the expenses mentioned by N-stoff, bear in mind that your insurance costs will be eye-wateringly expensive, but that's most things in motorsport for you. As the old saw goes: "How do you make a small fortune in racing? You start with a big one!"
posted by evoque at 6:22 AM on July 29, 2011

« Older Best cell phone camera?   |   Looking for a specific "safe touch" sociological... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.