Review: Dakar Rally 2011 DVD

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The Dakar Rally’s third trip to South America was once again a resounding success. The 14 day trek across 9,500 kilometres of some of the most challenging terrain was as intense as always and, more importantly, the racing remained a thrill to watch, as more than 400 vehicles embarked on their odyssey.

Highlights of this year’s epic off-road adventure have, somehow, been crammed into just 51 minutes on Duke Video’s Dakar Rally 2011 DVD – not quite the full hour as advertised on the back of the box, but never mind.

When you consider the running time represents just 1% of the entire event, you begin to wonder if this package can do this year’s Dakar any justice. Of course, condensing a fortnight’s worth of action into less than an hour means that many moments have been left on the cutting room floor. Yet, overall, what has been committed to disc is of significance and does tell the story of this year’s event rather well.

The two-wheel battle between Cyril Despres and Marc Coma takes top billing, as the pair, on their identical KTM450 machines, led the field from day one. Chased hard all the way from Buenos Aires and back by a pack of BMWs, Aprilias, Yamahas and even an old school Bultaco!

A similar head-to-head battle is played out on four-wheels too, as last year’s victor Carlos Sainz was pushed all the way by team-mate, and eventual winner, Nasser Al-Attiyah, in the sister Volkswagen Touareg. A fight that reached a pivotal moment during stage 9, when they came tantalisingly close to clouting one another in a dash to the finish – a moment featured in its entirety on Dakar 2011.

The footage is certainly action packed, but strangely, for an event that was available in glorious high definition for the first time this year, only comes in bog-standard-o-vision on DVD. A real shame because something like the Dakar, with its spectacular landscapes, complements the technology rather well.

Aurally things aren’t much better either. Ben Constanduros is behind the microphone this year and, while he does a satisfactory job, he does have a Marmite voice: you’ll either love it, or, think it’s akin to rain pattering down on a tin roof. There’s also a glaring gaff halfway through when you can quite clearly hear him nattering to someone else in the production office.

With no extra features to speak of, and no attempt to educate the viewer as to the who’s, what’s and where’s; Dakar Rally 2011 seems like a step backwards after previous efforts.

But gripes aside, it does adequately convey one of motorsport’s greatest adventures. But you can’t help but feel that what could have been brilliant, has only turned out to be okay.

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