The Empty Quarter might be extremely beautiful, but anyone taking part has to contend with untold dangers. And it’s far from being the only event requiring bravery,
Top 5: the most taxing rallies in the world
The Desert Challenge is a rough ride, that’s for sure. The Empty Quarter might be extremely beautiful but it takes no prisoners and anyone taking part has to contend with untold dangers. But it’s far from being the only event requiring bravery, and if you can think of a perilous place on Earth, chances are there’ll be some form of motorsport taking place there during the year.
Also known as The Race to the Clouds, Pikes Peak is an annual hill climb event that takes competitors to the summit of the eponymous mountain in Colorado, USA. The first race to the top took place back in 1916 and it's a 20km thrash through no fewer than 156 turns. Until last year, around 30 per cent of the route was made up of rough dirt ground, which made for spectacular and extremely dangerous driving. Future events won't be so hair-raising as the entire course will be on grippy tarmac. The end of an era.
If driving a powerful car on sand or mud is difficult, it's nothing compared with driving on snow and ice. In Lapland, to the north of Finland, there's no shortage of either, and this is home to one of motorsport's most testing events: the Arctic Rally. In the UAE summer, temperatures can hit 50°C but in Lapland they regularly reach minus 50. Tyres are skinny and spiked to get as much purchase as possible on the slippery surfaces, while the drivers have to combine skill with plenty of lunacy to set a decent time.
As the name suggests, the Baja 1000 is an annual rally that covers (usually) 1,000 miles (1,600km) through Mexico's Baja California Peninsula. The route and its distance vary from year to year and, like the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, the event is open to bikers and drivers alike, where fierce rivalry is not uncommon. As if the desert wasn't dangerous enough, the Baja 1000 is prone to spectators digging holes along the course, blocking rivers and putting obstacles in the way, just to make things a bit more exciting.
Formerly known as the Paris-Dakar, this is one of the most famous events in the world's motorsport calendar. The route has changed over the years due to conflicts and political unrest in certain regions but the danger and unforgiving conditions have remained constant. Currently held in South America, it's open to professionals and amateurs alike and distances of 900km a day are the norm. The motorcycles, cars and trucks that take part are mostly custom built because the terrain is so extreme.
Unlike the previous four in this list, the Bathurst 1000 is not an off-road endurance test. Instead, it's held at the Mount Panorama circuit in New South Wales, Australia, and consists of 1,000 terrifying kilometres around 161 laps. If the scorching temperatures, blind corners and dramatic elevation changes aren't dangerous enough for you, the crowds of spectators will more than make up for that. Things recently have got so out of hand that there's now a limit of 24 cans of "liquid refreshment" per spectator.