Riders on the dunes

EWN catches up with two South African Dakar motorcycle hopefuls, ahead of the start of the rally in January.

South African Dakar participants, Riaan Van Niekerk and Darryl Curtis take five after a pre-rally training session in Namibia

Preparing for Dakar is never an easy task. An exacting rally, full of danger, the endurance event takes skill, knowledge, and incredible guts. It's a particularly perilous task for those on bikes and quads.

Statistically, there have been more rider fatalities during the history of the race than loss of life of those taking part in cars and trucks.

Nobody knows that better than South African rider Darryl Curtis.

He crashed in Dakar 2013, breaking his back, and tearing muscles in his shoulder.

In spite of the dangers, Curtis is back for more in 2014. But this time, he's the manager for the KTM Factory Squad, and its 6 intrepid riders, including fellow South African Riaan van Niekerk.

It's Van Niekerk's second start at Dakar. As a rookie, he managed to come in 13th overall - an impressive start.

This year's route takes participants through some harsh terrain, including rolling sand dunes in Mendoza in Argentina.

Luckily for the South Africans, they had a convenient place to train. Neighbouring Namibia is a very close match to the conditions they'll be facing.

So, the riders and their trainers and team packed up and headed over the border. Basing themselves in Swakopmund, they rode the local dunes to their hearts' content.

Exercises included using their standard GPS to navigate to hidden route beacons, plotting a course through the pristine sand dunes.

The rolling dunes also gave the team the space to perfect their dune riding skills, learning to maintain forward motion, and carve their way up, down and along towering piles of desert sand.

The 2014 edition of the Dakar Rally starts on January 5th from Rosario in Argentina.

EWN Sport will be travelling with Team Imperial Toyota, and bringing you blow by blow accounts of each leg of the world's greatest rally.