Thierry Sabine & One the Greatest Adventure Races in History


Where it Started: 1978 Paris–Dakar Rally

Thierry Sabine was a French wrangler, motorcycle racer, and founder/main organizer of the Paris Dakar- one of the greatest cross-country adventure races from Paris, France, to Dakar, Senegal. The race originated in 1977 when Theirry Sabine got lost for several days in the Tenere Desert, the south central Saharas, during the Abidjan-Nice race. He was suffering from dehydration and hallucinations before being rescued by a tuareg, a nomadic pastorialist of West Africa who helped him recover and get him back to safety.

Thierry naturally wanted to share the experience and harshness of the African Desert, the local people, and the vastness of the country itself. By December of that year he arranged the race which started in Paris and finished in Dakar, Senegal which is thousands of miles of way along the western coast of Africa. It gained a major following within years and attracted hundreds of eager adventurers, one of which was supposedly Margaret Thatcher’s (Britain’s longest running female prime minister) son in 1984, who got lost and went missing for 4 days in a desert sand storm.


“A Challenge for those who go. A dream for those who stay behind.”

The race itself has claimed the lives of many racers, spectators, and journalist since it’s inception. Participants and public alike shared in the harsh climates and war-torn areas of Africa throughout the country during the past races. Much of the areas are still even plagued with thousands of landmines. Competitors have been known to have lost their feet due to the landmines when going off course or have even been killed by armed soldiers even. The challenges faced by those involved with the Dakar-Rally have been extensive yet the race has brought in many and united adventurers from all over the world. 2002 marked the last consistent year the race left from Paris, and in 2008, because of a military coup and the dangers of terrorism in Mauritania (the country basically surrounding/leading into Dakar from the race)  the race was cancelled and finally moved to South American starting in 2009.

So what is so special about the Dakar-Rally? It’s basically the the Ocean of Fire race from Hildalgo but with motorcycles..and which started in Africa in the 70’s versus Arabia in the late 1800’s. It’s about both survival and skill with the riders having about a 5% chance at dying. The race seems to be one of the ultimate l tests for both amateur and professional riders requiring some of the most daunting tests in strength, endurance, courage, navigation, patience, vehicle maintenance, on-the-go fixing and engineering, and personal perseverance that one can possibly muster. The event is now run by the same organization as the Tour De France, the Amaury Sport Organisation.

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Where are we now?

Well the Dakar-Rally isn’t really a rally, it’s properly called a “Rally-Raid,” also known as cross country rallying. It’s a form of long distance off-road adventure racing that takes place over several days. Since the radical Islamist Al-Qaeda militants in Mauritania threatened the race outside of Dakar in 2008 it has now moved into Argentina, Bolivia, and Chile. See 2015’s Route Map below-





Population: 40.6 million inhabitants, Surface Area: 2,766,890 sq. km, Capital: Buenos Aires, Currency: Argentinean Peso, Motto: In Unity and Freedom!

With nearly 3,500 km in between the Bolivian border and the extremities of Tierra Del Fuego or “Land of Fire”, Argentina is a very large country. It’s expanse from all cardinal directions gives it several different climate variations for the adventure riders to endure. Much of the race takes place in Argentina and winds through cities such as Villa Carlos Paz, San Juan, Chilecito, Salta, Termas de Rio Hondo, Rosario, and of course where it all begins and ends, Buenos Aires. With nearly fifteen million people in Buenos Aires, it has become one of the most thriving economic and cultural cities in all of South America. After the cancellation of the 2008 Dakar-Rally in Africa, the country welcomed the racers from around the world under the Obelisco de Buenos Aires, a national historic monument and icon of Buenos Aires. The capital stands as not only a gathering place for the start of the race but for so much more as they became the country that opened their arms to all sorts of colors and nationalities to keep up with and help the adventure spirit thrive.



Population: 16.7 million inhabitants, Surface Area: 756,950 sq. km, Capital: Santiago De Chile, Currency: Chilean Peso, Motto: By reason or by force!

Chile is a long and relatively thin country as compared to others in South America, one side is bound by the Pacific Ocean and on the other is the long stretch of Andes. Chile is one of the longest countries in the world with 4,300 km from north to south with an even larger coastline. Chile, Argentina, and Bolivia along with other Rally supporters have helped out with a large portion of this race by helping contribute assistance throughout South American and Africa. From the Dakar Website:The rally has not forgotten its roots or its values. For more than 30 years, it has given its support to several initiatives in order to forge and maintain links with the populations of its host countries in Africa and now in South America. After setting up Actions Dakar with S.O.S. Sahel which continues to exist in Africa, the Dakar has developed aid focused on transitional housing thanks to a charity which is present in Argentina, Chile and Peru: Techo.”




Population: 10.5 million inhabitants, Surface Area: 1,098,581 sq. km, Capital: La Paz/Sucre, Currency: Boliviano, Motto: United We Stand!

Bolivia has a rich history with all of South America. It’s first pesident, Simon Bolivar, helped play a role in the emancipation of Columbia, Ecuador, Panama, Peru, Venezuela, and also supported the project of a political confederation to help unite and bring together all countries in Latin America. Highly respected throughout the world, it has become a major tourist destination due to its geographical features and amazing sites. The various climates and geographical locations make for some of the most outrageous motorcycle riding conditions in the world, period. Importantly, Bolivia has hosted motorcyclist from the Dakar-Rally in 2014 with a marathon stage in the south of the country in Uyuni. Here they raced on the Salar de Uyuni, the world’s largest salt flat.


2014 Dakar-Rally Route Map


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This brief history and look into the Dakar-Rally hopefully gives you a little more respect for the world of adventure races and motorcycle Rally-Raids. Men and women have put their lives on the line and have tested their limits with the Dakar-Rally. It it is pretty unbelievable at the amazing support that countries around the world have helped with and given back to the riders and supporters of this race to make it possible. In honoring the memory of the founder Thierry Sabine, the race can be summarized in his beautiful words on describing the race, “A challenge for those who go. A dream for those who stay behind.” Such is life.

By Daniel Muschiana , Social Media Director – Parts Pit Stop 

Looking for a little more history or recap of some of the past Race videos? Check out Dakar’s Official History Page here >>

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