Did you know that right now there’s a rally in Africa called the “Africa Eco Race”, featuring motorbikes, cars, trucks and even buggies like this?
Sorry for this non-toy related post, but desert rally races have inspired a lot of my toy collecting over the years. And I thought some readers might find this interesting…
As you may know, a few years ago political unrest in Africa caused the original “Dakar Rally” – the annual desert race across Africa, to be canceled. The following year, it’s organizers moved the entire event to South America instead, but they kept calling it “The Dakar”.
But not everyone agreed with the decision to move the race to South America.
Some, including several former winners of the Paris-Dakar, wanted to keep racing in Africa. So they did – creating a new race called the Africa Eco-Race.
Official website: www.africarace-live.com/en/
Also visit the official Africa Eco Race Youtube Channel.
The Africa Eco-Race is a race from Europe to Dakar, contested by motorbikes, cars and trucks – just like the Dakar.
This year it runs from December 29 2013 – January 11 2014.
It differs slightly from The Dakar Rally because it also encourages (although doesn’t mandate) the use of eco-friendly experimental vehicles. Even the organizers offer eco-friendly technology (such as solar technology) to some of the African communities living near the path of the rally, as a goodwill gesture.
Most of the competitors still drive normally aspirated vehicles however, and due to cheaper entry fees, closer proximity to Europe, and the mysterious lure of the African desert, the number of competitors in the Africa Eco-Race has grown a little each year.
2014 is the 6th running of the race, and the winner of the car category every single year so far has been two-time former Paris-Dakar winner Jean-Louis Schlesser in his eponymous and legendary blue “Schlesser Buggy”. Jean-Louis is one top level driver who refused to follow the Dakar Rally when it moved over to South America.
The whole event has a little bit of the feel of old-school Paris-Dakar, from the classic years (1970s and early 1980s) when the legend of the rally was first born – ie. a smaller group of adventurers who not only try to win the rally but often assist each other to complete the stages. It seems to have a good atmosphere of cooperation.
One of the organisers of the rally is Rene Metge, who was a 3-time winner of the Paris-Dakar in the 1980s, including for Porsche.
Here’s the promo for the 2014 Africa Eco-Race…
The nice thing I noticed this year is that the Eurosport channel is covering the Africa Eco-Race with a highlights package every day, using the same English commentator (Carlton Kirby) that they use on their Dakar Rally coverage.
And so far, here are a few of the cool vehicles I have seen in this year’s Africa Eco-Race, particularly buggies. Keep in mind that many of the R/C buggies and toys created in the 80s were inspired by vehicles from desert rally-raid and baja events around the world!
For further reading, here’s another article about the Africa Eco Race on a motorsport website.