The Dakar Rally appears to be a very strictly controlled and moderated commercial enterprise. They have lots of sponsorship and evidently good cooperation from law enforcement here in Chile. The place where I went to view a checkpoint a little over half way through the final stage was Limache. The riders came through there on what amounts to a county road after exiting the freeway. This was not an organized and authorized viewing point and there was no "action" to see, just riders trickling in over a number of hours, sometimes singles, sometimes in groups, motos before 4 wheelers and then finally the cars and trucks. I only saw a couple of the cars after being there for about 6 or 7 hours. Interesting to see some of the bikes and riders but ultimately a gigantic bore. I am not a huge spectator. The crowd was huge and it grew from early in the day through the afternoon. They were very enthusiastic as the riders entered and left to finish the stage in a less accessible area. There were two "check in" areas. On the right was the area for motos and 4 wheelers. On the left was the area for the cars and trucks. Access to these areas was very strictly controlled. If you did not have a pass you didn't get in "just to have a look". The police presence was huge and they were very chill... no pressure or heavy handedness, just polite no and please move. We were not even allowed to stand around the entrance to the check in area. My best vantage point was near the freeway ramps where the riders and drivers entered and exited. It was very hard to get any information about times and locations outside of what the rally posted on its website. This place was not even on the website as an official "viewing point". I only learned about it from a Chilean friend. None of the people around us seemed to know much of anything (generally true in Chile, no one seems to know much, especially about how you get from here to there). We did find a guy who was getting info on his cell phone in real time. He was a real "fan" There were a lot of real "fans" some knowledgable some just out for the party. The way people mobbed the riders would never be allowed at any "mosport" event I have been to in fifty or more years of attending such events. The fun in this was in seeing and being with the enthusiastic crowd. As i said previously the riders didn't seem to have much left. A few of them were clearly pissed off and rode aggressively off the road and around the crowd. Most of them accepted the adulation with a degree of exhausted grace.
I have found that Chile is damn expensive... this is especially true when you get into the resort and more remote areas. Lodging is expensive, food is expensive, gasoline is expensive. A lot of places are booked and sometimes you have to search a bit to find something that is less than you wanted for more than you wanted to pay. It is summer vacation here and the lodging and restaurant operators hose everybody just like they do at resorts at home. There is not a lot of English spoken here in Chile and it is a bit harder to navigate around than in Mexico for example. I do speak a bit of Spanish and am traveling with a Chilean friend, which has its own complications.
The Atacama to the north of where I am in Viņa del Mar is quite a challenge in terms of distance, places to stay, availability of fuel and water. There are really long distances in a few places between gas stops. I don't have my GPS with me. Did not bring it because I don't have a SA data base loaded. I have been using the road atlas booklet that is produced by and available at the Copec gas stations. It is called Chiletur Copec, La Guia Para Conocer Chile.
For those of you who want more information about the Dakar you can go to their website. They seem to keep a pretty tight rein on things. Jim Hyde of RawHyde adventures was down here with a bunch of his guys last year. I don't know if they were here this year. He would be a great source of information on the Dakar. Check out his website.
The Dakar has a well oiled ORGANIZACION