The World’s Toughest Rally: Casey Currie Finishes the Dakar
From short course racing to King of the Hammers to the Baja 1000, Casey Currie has done it all. Having competed in almost every major off-road motorsports contest there is, one challenge has eluded him until 2019. Following his win at the Baja 1000 in Ensenada last November, Casey announced his entry into the 2019 Dakar Rally. He described the Dakar as a personal challenge that his whole career has been leading up to. Entering in the side by side class in his race-ready Can-Am Maverick X3, Casey immediately began preparing for the journey to South America.
After a 9.5-hour flight from Los Angeles to Lima, Peru, Casey and team wasted no time in picking up their race vehicles from the port and setting up their first mobile camp, called the bivouac, which will follows the race along each stage. Because the Can-Ams had to be shipped via freight, there was some assembly required when they arrived in Peru. Casey spent the next few days shaking down the race car, getting their credentials in order and finishing scrutineering, which is equivalent to race technical inspections. The day before the rally began, Casey and the team headed to the Dakar podium ceremony, where they gave interviews and interacted with the fans. Shortly after, the race vehicles were parked and ready for the big day.
Starting at 4:00 a.m., Casey’s team began transferring the bivouac from Lima to Pisco, about a 250km ride. Casey had a start time of 8:36 a.m., with a 247km liason, which is a non-timed section of the course, followed by an 84km “special” which is the timed and scored section of the rally. Starting in fourth place in the SxS (side-by-side) class, Casey took a careful approach over the dunes, finishing in sixth place for the first stage. Arriving at the bivouac, which has now moved to Piso, Casey’s team grabbed dinner and got some rest for the next stage.
The second stage proved to be a challenging and learning stage for Casey. Starting sixth in his class, he ran into some navigation issues early on, which got worse as the day went by. At the end of the stage, Casey finished 16th in his class, with a deficit of just over 43 minutes. This meant Casey would have to work hard during the following stages to climb his way back to the top of the pack.
Beginning in San Juan de Marcona, Casey took off 14th in the SxS class. This stage provided for a bit more variety in driving and allowed for chase teams to assist the race car in various locations, in addition to three pit stops and a refueling stop. The day went smoothly, with the exception of a flat in the dunes. After a quick tire change, he was back on his way. Casey finished fourth for the day, placing him in eighth place overall in his class. After the special stage, the team traveled some 462km along a cliffside highway by the coast, described as one of the most dangerous roads they’ve ever traveled on.
Stage 4 & 5
This was the beginning of the “marathon stage,” named so for the lengthy 406km special stage ahead of them. As a true test of endurance, there would be no assistance from the crew during this stage of the rally. Any issues or repairs had to be done by the driver and co-driver in these two stages. The terrain over these two stages consisted of massive dunes and deep silt called fesh-fesh, which can be up to five feet deep at times and contain hidden rocks that can easily cause flats.
During Stage 5, Casey had better luck with navigation, and kept a steady pace. After encountering a rolled over T4 truck, causing a delay of a few minutes, Casey was back up to speed and making good time. Unfortunately, the organization had ended the stage early due to a dense fog that made visibility nearly zero. Casey rounded the day in fourth place overall, headed into a much-needed rest day.
The second half the Dakar rally was underway, signified by the longest stage of the race, consisting of two special stages. During the first stage, things were moving well until Casey got a puncture costing him about five minutes. He would end the first special in fifth place, 09:31 behind the stage leader.
The second half the day came with significant challenges for both driver and navigator. As the stage weaved through sand dunes and coastline, it crossed into the path of Stage 3, which made tracks on the ground very deceiving. Navigators had to focus and have zero doubts about their directions. Casey finished third for the stage, landing him in fifth overall in his class.
Starting and ending in San Juan De Marcona, Stage 7 was the first loop stage of the rally, featuring more sand dunes, gravel and soft terrain, most of which is called HP, or untouched terrain, which requires the drivers and navigators to forge their own path across obstacles. Full of triple cautions, this stage proved to be one of the most difficult of the rally. Casey encountered a navigation error early on, and later misread a dune, sending his Maverick X3 15 feet off a razorback, damaging his front left suspension. As Casey worked to replace the broken parts, a fellow SxS competitor made the same mistake, this time resulting in a rollover. Casey remained in fifth place overall at the end of this stage, despite finishing ninth for the stage, proving just how difficult this section was for all the competitors.
As the rally made its way back up to Pisco, Casey continued to deal with navigational errors, consistently losing him 2-3 minutes per waypoint. Despite these issues, he maintained his fifth place overall position at the end of Stage 8.
Stage 9 & 10
As the rally neared its end, Casey was still fighting navigation problems, getting lost multiple times. Despite losing 34 minutes in this stage, Casey still held onto his fourth place overall position for the class, with a large gap between him and fifth place. The next and final stage of the rally consisted of a 111km special through the dunes followed by a 244km liason stage back to Lima for the podium celebration.
After what seemed like an eternity, Casey finally crossed the finish line of the 2019 Dakar Rally in fourth place in his SxS class and took the Rookie of Dakar award. Casey described it as “10 tough days in the roughest terrain on the planet.” While not the finish Casey was hoping for, the blood is now in the water and we’re confident Casey will be making a return to South America to take the podium at the Dakar Rally.