Dakar 2019 Brings the 1st Women to Compete in the Malle Moto Class
As women become more present in today’s motor sports, I always feel excited to see a woman make history. In today’s day and age, I’m still amazed when one takes on something no other woman has tried before. It makes me realize, not only are women allowed to compete in dangerous sports, they’re now welcomed and encouraged to try. Just this year, two women took on the Dakar Rally, in the Malle Moto Class, for the first time ever.
About Dakar and Malle Moto
A Dakar Rally, originally known as the Paris-Dakar Rally, is an extreme off-road endurance event. Since 1978, the race started in Paris, France and ended in Dakar, Senegal. However, due to unstable conditions in Mauritania, the race was moved to South America in 2008. This year, in 2019, the race started on January 6, and ended after 10 stages on January 17th. The route was 100% in Peru, 70% sand, and 5000 km, or 3107 miles.
The race is open to both amateurs and professional entries alike. The vehicles used are true off-road vehicles. Divisions consist of bikes, cars, quads, trucks, and utv’s. Riders take on extreme terrain such as rock, wind, and sand dunes.
My impression of the Dakar Rally is it’s made for the craziest types of riders pushing themselves to see how much they can take before curling up into a ball and crying. Taking it a step further, and crazier, is the Malle Moto Class of this rally. Malle Moto is as dangerous as you can get in the Dakar Rally.
Without any assistance whatsoever, a competitor must rely on his/her own wits, knowledge, and persistence to push through to the end. With only a metal box of spare parts & tools and a tent, the rally-raider must do all repairs and maintenance completely solo. No team or other helping hands will come to the rescue.
Meet The First Women Take on the Malle Moto Class
Anastasia Nifontova of Russia is no stranger to rally raids and has been participating in the long-distance discipline since 1999. She’s also no stranger to making history as the first woman to compete along-side her male rivals.
In 2010 she won a bronze medal in the Khazar Steppes rally-raid in the Moto Open category. She took part of the Cross Country Rally World Cup in 2014 and took home a silver medal in the Women’s World Cup. Also in 2014, Anastasia competed in the Africa Eco Race rally-marathon where she became the first Russian to finish a rally-marathon. She was the women’s winner of the FIM Cross-Country Rally World Championship in 2015 and also took the women’s title in the 2016 Africa Eco Race.
Needless to say, she’s on a roll. She entered a Dakar race for the first time in 2017 backed by the Husqvarna team in the Motorcycle Class, and became the first Russian woman to compete and finish the competition.
She became one of 2 women to enter the Malle Moto Class for the first time in 2019. (They’re calling it “Original by Motul” this year) And she didn’t do too bad, which is not surprising given her timeline of rally participation. Anastasia Nifontova finished in position 62 in the overall Moto category and in 9th position of the 15 who finished the in the Malle Moto Class.
Another woman to note, is Sara Garcia of Spain. Along with Anastasia Nifontova, she’s one of the first two women to race the Dakar, Malle Moto-style. Sara also has quite the rally resume.
Sara took the title Female World Champion of the Bajas after taking on the European Championship, La Baja Aragon. In 2017, she won the FIM World Cup in the women’s category. She’s also a three-time champion of the Rally Spain TT 2016, 2017, and 2018.
It wasn’t all glory for Sara, though. Last year she overcame a bad crash that left her injured in Morocco during the Merzouga Rally. She had to overcome her nerves after recovering from her injuries and managed to work through her fears to compete in Dakar 2019.
Sara didn’t finish the Dakar, but not due to her lack of determination. She officially announced she was pulling out after having electrical problems after completing 3 stages. And so it goes with many Dakar contestants.
Watch Sara Garcia pick her bike up (sound on):
It’s an exciting time for women to be included where they previously were unwelcome. It’s important to see woman break barriers, not only for themselves, but for the women who follow in their footsteps. I find it encouraging to see women taking on dangerous moto competitions where they are often portrayed as accessories to the victors. I wonder, should a woman take the podium, who will be spraying them with champagne?