The fearless racers charged out of Buenos Aires on their beefed-up bikes, quads, cars and trucks on New Years Day, but preparation for the Dakar 2011 Edition started well before the engines fired up.
The Vizada Networks specialist events division TDCOM was on the scene in Argentina’s capital during the week long scrutineering process, with four of the twenty-strong dedicated Dakar team in place to manage the extensive VSAT communications and tracking system they had developed and installed during the build-up to this year’s edition of the world’s most extreme rally.
The Dakar is widely known as one of the toughest sporting events on the planet, testing the limits of man and machine across remote, inhospitable terrain. The extreme environments the racers are tasked with navigating – Africa until 2008 and South America since – make the implementation of communications for safety, security, tracking and media a job for experienced professionals.
TDCOM has been working with race organiser, the Paris based Amaury Sport Organisation since 1985. The extensive solution for the 2011 Edition is based on two main communication and tracking services.
A three VSAT link with capacity of approx. 8 MHz and operational centres at the A-start line, B-finish line and an intermediary point is being used for organisational communications, in addition to media and team use. WiFi and Wimax are being deployed to extend the available coverage whilst kiosks with free internet access are installed for racers and teams to use between stages.
The vehicle tracking solution, which enables the organisers to position the cars along the route, take timings and display this information to fans around the world (http://gaps.dakar.com/2011/dakar/aso/us) is based on TDCOM’s Iritrack solution, which is the de facto industry standard for sporting events of this kind. All 430 vehicles in the rally are fitted with Iritrack, and can be tracked via Google Earth.
Iritrack is key to the racers’ safety and security. It handles alerts and alarms for the medical teams and also features a shock detector, which will send an alert containing the vehicle’s current position if it records a violent impact, which can be vital should the occupants of a vehicle be incapacitated following an accident.
If the position does not change after 90 seconds, the system automatically sends another alert, whilst an inclinometer will cause Iritrack to send an alert should the vehicle be at an abnormal angle, for instance upside down after a roll. This is backed up by an audio call so operators can check with the vehicle occupants to find out if they are ok.
Although the Dakar is a challenge most of us can only dream of taking part in, and there could be danger around ever corner and over every hill, the racers are all highly skilled and professional, so serious incidents are relatively rare. However, with Iritrack onboard, all participants left the start line on New Years Day confident in the knowledge that should the worst happen, calls for help will be received wherever they are.
Find out more about TDCOM and Iritrack: www.tdcom.fr
Find out more about the Dakar: www.dakar.com