For years, the Paris-Dakar rally was known as the most brutal, trying and impossible automobile race in the world. The road (if it could be called a road, at times) from France to Senegal was, to say the least, tough. To attempt to match the conditions, distance and terrain, the race attracted the world’s toughest cars and best mechanics. But sometimes, just being tough is not enough. In its history, the race has claimed 25 lives.
Everything changed in 2009 when, due to security concerns and political unrest in the country of Mauritania, the rally was moved to South America. The switch did little to affect the race’s reputation for brutal terrain and punishing conditions. This year, the race was run on yet another new route, starting in Mar Del Plata in Argentina, south of Buenos Aires on the Atlantic Ocean; through Copiapó, a city in northern Chile; and ending up in Lima, Peru, a distance of more than 3,100 miles with crossings of both the Andes Mountains and the notorious Atacama Desert, one of the driest places on earth.
But this year, more than the route changed. This year was the first year a range extended electric vehicle not only entered Dakar, but finished.
Maris Saukans showed up at this year’s starting line in his electric-powered OSCar eO vehicle. Saukans had finished the grueling Dakar races before, but this was to be his first in the Latvian-government sponsored truck.