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Below are a list of terms commonly encountered on the Dakar Rally.

An abbreviation for “a gauche”, meaning “go left”.

A droite, meaning to go right.

This is an abbreviation for the Organization of the Dakar Rally, officially the Amaury Sport organization. Originally, the organizer was the Thierry Sabine Organization (TSO), named after Thierry Sabine, the rally’s founder. After Thierry’s death, Thierry’s father Gilbert took over, and when he retired, he sold his rights to the ASO. The ASO also organizes the popular cycling race called the Tour de France.

Assistance vehicles
These go from bivouac to bivouac to support the competition vehicles, and are used mainly to carry managers, mechanics and others.

A balise (or beacon) is an emergency-use rescue signal transmitter, which every participant is required to carry. It can be also used as a desert landmark (air route marker).

A French word literally meaning “camp”. More that 200 people participate in the Dakar Rally, including the competitors and others associated with the team, sponsors, medical staff, catering staff, media people and aircraft control and operating staff. Each morning, everyone gets back into their vehicles, airplanes, or helicopters and moves on to the next bivouac. Consequently, bivouacs are situated at airports.

This word means “gift” in French and has come to mean “give me a gift” in the West African countries like Burkina Faso, Mali, Senegal an Guinea. One frequently hears this word from the local children ask for are pens and pencils.

Camel grass
This is a tough grass plant that thrives on the sand. When tires come onto camel grass, the motorcycle is suddenly thrust up as if it has hit a ridge. In West African desert, particularly in Mauritania, there is much camel grass. Camel grass stages are generally uncomfortable and difficult.

Camion balai
In French, camion means truck and balai means broom or sweeper truck. The camion balai truck trails along the end of the rally and collects the motorcyclists who have retired. Competitors who meet this truck are advised to retire and are taken on to the next bivouac.

A steel box for storage of personal items. It measures one meter wide, 50 centimetres deep and 40 centimetres high. These boxes are transported by airplane for the motorcycle competitors.

Checkpoint or CP
Checkpoints are used to ensure that participants stay on the set course. The checkpoints prevent shortcuts and helps riders avoid certain border zones. Each special stage contains two or more CP’s. Failure to pass trough a checkpoint incurs major penalties.

Cap heading or CAP
This is a compass bearing where north is zero. The cap bearings indicate the 360 degrees around the clock face. It is done of the pieces of course information listed in the road book. Caps are listed in the road book often when there are no other clear landmarks in the desert terrain and sand dunes.

Dakar Rally
Formerly knows as “The Paris Dakar Rally”, the Dakar Rally is an annual professional off-road race, currently organized by the ASO. The race is open to amateur and professional entries; amateurs making about eighty percent of the participants. Despite its name, it is an off-road endurance race rather than a conventional rally – Most of the competitive sections (“stages” or “specials”) are off-road, crossing dunes, mud, camel grass, rocks, erg, among other obstacles. The distances covered vary from several kilometres to several hundred kilometres per day.

This is a French word for “stage”. An étape begins at the bivouac, then to the start of special stage via the liaison, and finally on to the next bivouac via another liaison.

This terms refers to very soft, powder-like sand. It is very easy to get stuck in fesh-fesh. Although not a sand dune, fesh-fesh are danger spots caused by many vehicles driving repeatedly over the same sandy truck.

Brand name of the most popular and currently leading motorcycle in rallies today.

GPS point
The global positioning system (GPS) is a network of US-launched satellites that determine position. GPS has been used in the Dakar Rally since the system was first commercialized. Today, the use of the GPS is limited to strategic points called way points and can only offer an assistive role in route finding.

Host countries
Originally, the rally was from Paris, France to Dakar, Senegal, interrupted by a transfer across the Mediterranean; however, due to politics and other factors, the course, including origin and destination, has been varied over the years. The rally has started from Spain, Egypt, France and Portugal.

Satellite telephones are the lifeline of the rally administration. Records of each competitor passing a checkpoint are sent to rally headquarters and the competition results are worked out through the Inmarsat telephones. The media center is linked to the outside world through an ISDN Inmarsat network where images and documents can be transmitted. All motorcycle participants are required to carry Inmarsat mobile phones for emergency use.

A transfer section between the special stages is called a liaison. If the participants fail to arrive within the designated time, they face a penalty. Liaison stages are often on paved roads commonly pitted with potholes and drivers cannot afford to relax. In fact, accidents are common on liaison stages.

Lunch pack
The competitors and all staff are supplied eith a lunch pack every day. Its contents include a small can of pork patties, nuts, dry bread, canned mixed vegetables and some sweets.

Marathon stage
These are two-day stages driven with virtually no assistance. Because of these restrictions, the assistance vehicles cannot go to the interim bivouac. Competitors are free to perform their own maintenance within the scope of parts carried on their own vehicles.

Maximum time
This refers to the time allowed to complete a special stage. If a competitor exceeds the permitted time, penalties are added. In addition, competitors who fail to reach the start 30 minutes before their starting time are disqualified. The maximum time is set in accordance with the length and degree of difficulty of a special stage.

Optimal visual apex
This is the apex of a corner that allows the best view of oncoming traffic upon exiting the corner. It is not to be confused with the “apex of a corner” which exists at the center of the corner.

Papa Charly
“Papa Charly” is used to refer to rally headquarters when communicating by radio. Rally headquarters in Africa is a twin-engine, small jet transporter, which carries competition officials to the bivouacs each day.

Parc Fermé
Parc is French for “park” and refer to an area enclosed for a special purpose, while fermé means “closed”. Vehicles are not allowed to be touched while in the parc fermé.

Penalties are imposed by adding time, monetary fines, or in severe cases, disqualification. Penalties are imposed for various offences, such as going over maximum time, speeding in villages and taking shortcuts that deviate substantially from the course.

Polisario Front
The rally was criticized for crossing through the disputed territory of Western Sahara between Morocco and Mauritania without consulting the Polisario Front, which is considered representative of Sahrawi people.

Production class
This is a class in the Dakar Rally where the scope of modifications is highly restricted and the fitting of restrictors is mandatory. Speeds are not as high as in the super-production category.

A first, short special test defining the starting order for the first stage. The time of the prologue counts for the general result.

Road Book
This is the route instruction book where the day’s course is outlined on a sectional map, accompanied by cautions. The course in the Dakar Rally I s completely secret. The competitors learn about the course through the information in the road book handed out the day before. Today, road books are offered in English as well as French.

Sahrawi people
These are the inhabitants of a territory of Western Sahara between Morocco and Mauretania, called Polisario Front.

Every rally starts with inspection of persons and bikes. All team members must be accredited and all bikes must comply with the rules of the FIM.

This stands for “special stage”. The basis of rally competition is to pass through these stages in the shortest possible time. In Europe, the special stages are generally short, but as the race enters Africa the stages are much longer. The longest special stage in history was more than 800 kilometres.

Sand board
When a tire sinks into the sand, the crew digs it out and places the sand board under the tire to extricate the vehicle.

Super-production class
This is the top category for the four and two wheel classes. Modifications are permitted to the engine, frame and suspension. However, minimum weights in accordance with engine displacement are stipulated.

This refers to the medical teams that move around the course in four wheel drive vehicles. Each vehicle number starts with a “T” (T1, T2 and so forth). The teams are known as “tango”.

An acronym of “tout droit sur piste principal”, which means (continue straight on the main road”. These letters come up in the road book often and can sometimes mean continue straight ahead for more that 100 kilometres.

Time card
Each morning at the bivouac, competitors begin at the individual start times listed on their time cards, which are stamped at each checkpoint passed. Even when the vehicle is moved from the vehicle inspection area to the parc fermé (closed area) prior to the start for administrative reasons, the time card is used.

Truck class
Vehicles with a gross weight of 3.5 tons or more, whatever their shape, are classed as trucks. They are divided into the T4 class that participates in competition and the T% class assistance truck that goes from bivouac to bivouac to support the competition vehicles. T4 class vehicles can undertake service activities even during special stages.