- Assistance (Back-up) Class
- Back-up teams normally follow a different route to the race vehicles as they travel from one bivouac to the next to provide support services. On the Europe stage of the rally, assistance is classed as 'free,' meaning that persons not directly associated with the rally can provide back-up services. Once the vehicles get to Africa, however, only registered Assistance Class mechanics are permitted to provide support services to race competitors. In previous years, so-called 'air mechanics' would fly between the bivouac stops, but use of aircraft has been disallowed since 2002 (apart from rest days). Thus, assistance mechanics are key members of the team structure.
- Assistance vehicles and camions
- Assistance vehicles are used to transport key personnel such as mechanics and managers, while assistance camions carry large quantities of spare parts, tires and other materials. Assistance camions are also fitted with equipment such as power generators and air compressors. At night, the bivouac becomes a hive of frenetic activity under night lights surrounded by a circle of camions.
- Assistance route
- Assistance vehicles travel a different route to the race vehicles. The route is set out by the rally organizers beforehand, and follows sealed roads where possible. Detours are often required in order to reach the bivouac points, making the assistance route longer than the race route. In remote areas, assistance vehicles are occasionally required to use the same route as the SS race vehicles. Since they are not permitted to leave the bivouac until all the race vehicles have departed, the race among the assistance vehicles to reach the next bivouac can be as fierce as the competition rally itself.
- ASO stands for Amaury Sport Organization, the organizers of the Dakar Rally. The original founder, Gilbert Sabine, sold the rights to the rally to the Amaury Group in 1993 under the name the Thierry Sabine Organization (TSO). Following a restructuring in 2002, responsibility for the Dakar Rally was transferred to the ASO Motor Sports Division, and from 2003 ASO became the official organizer.
- Bogging occurs when a vehicle gets stuck in sand or mud and is unable to move due to the resistance of the sand against the tires. Once a common occurrence on the desert stretches of the Paris-Dakar rally, bogging has become less frequent in recent years thanks to CTIS and other performance improvements.
- The bivouac is the place where participants camp for the night. Every day in the Dakar Rally starts and ends at a bivouac. There are close to 2,000 people in a bivouac, including competitors, mechanics, team staff, rally officials, medical staff and press representatives. The Dakar Rally bivouac is like a traveling village moving across the African continent, with its own catering unit and even a rubbish collection team. Bivouacs are often located at airfields, since those not directly involved with the vehicles usually travel by plane or helicopter.
- Briefings are where rally officials provide participants with important information about the next day's stage, the schedule, and any changes or developments. Briefings are held every evening, normally at 9 p.m. at the bivouac. Information is provided in French, with simultaneous English interpretation.
- Camion is the French word for truck (including ordinary road trucks as well as the racing camions featured in the Paris-Dakar).
- CTIS stands for Central Tire Inflator System, a system which is used to regulate tire pressures while the vehicle is moving. CTIS allows the driver to prevent blow-outs and bogging by adjusting the tire characteristics to suit different types of terrain such as sand dunes and desert country.
- CP is short for checkpoints, used to check that participants are following the designated route. Usually, two or three checkpoints are set up along each SS, and sometimes along liaison routes as well. Heavy penalties are applied if a vehicle does not clear a checkpoint, so ensuring that the vehicle reaches the checkpoint is an important task of the navigator.
- Dine is French for dinner, a time of rest for the hardworking Dakar Rally competitors, when friends can gather together over plates piled high with delicious food and discuss the day's events over a glass of wine. The bustling cafeteria facilities serve a full menu of pickled entrees, main dish of meat, hot soup, bread, cheeses and deserts, complemented by wine, beer, soft drink and other beverages
- FIA stands for Federation Internationale de l'Automobile, the largest automobile association in the world. Based in Paris, the FIA is responsible for other motor sports such as F1 and WRC.
- GPS (Global Positioning System) is a positioning system similar to modern car navigation systems, using satellite signal to determine the location and orientation of the vehicle. To prevent teams gaining an unfair advantage, the Dakar Rally participants are only allowed to use a simple GPS device stipulated by the rally organizers, and the information provided is limited to several locations en route. The designated GPS device does not provide a map display like a normal car navigation system, and is really little more than a supplementary navigation aid. In recent years, GPS has also been used to enforce speed limits of 50 km/h within townships.
- The word homologation means to sanction or recognize a vehicle or vehicle prototype. In the context of the Paris-Dakar rally, it means an approved mass-market vehicle that has been accredited in accordance with FIA standards. The standard differs between categories; the minimum production run for camions, for instance, is 15 vehicles.
- The word liaison refers to an untimed section of the Paris-Dakar rally route. For safety and security reasons, it is not always possible to begin and end the SS at the bivouac sites. In this case, race vehicles must proceed from the bivouac site to the SS start point, complete the SS, then proceed from the SS end point to the next bivouac. The sections before and after the SS are referred to as liaison sections. Liaison sections are subject to time limits (with corresponding penalties), although these are not too demanding. Most of the Europe stage of the rally consists of liaison sections.
- Loop stage
- A loop stage is a stage that begins and ends at the same bivouac site. To ensure that competitors complete the course as required, penalties for failure to pass through checkpoints are higher on a loop stage. Meanwhile, assistance teams remain at the bivouac and enjoy a well-earned rest.
- Marathon Stage
- The Marathon Stage is a stage lasting for two consecutive days during which time assistance vehicles are prohibited. The aim is to eliminate the difference between the generously resourced corporate teams and the private or individual competitors. However, competitors are allowed to help one another out, which still gives the corporate-backed teams an advantage. To address this problem, the 2005 event will introduce a Super Marathon Stage in which vehicles are impounded in a Parc-Fermes as soon as they arrive at the bivouac.
- The term Parc-Fermes refers to temporary holding of a race vehicle by the rally organizers, and also to the place where vehicles are held. Drivers and mechanics are not allowed to access vehicles being held at a Parc-Fermes.
- The race rules provide for a range of penalties, most of which are expressed as time penalties added to the SS times. The penalty for failing to pass through a checkpoint, for instance, is several hours added to the race time. Severe violations of the rules can result in fines or even disqualification.
- Quick Assistance
- Quick Assistance vehicles are support vehicles that are permitted to enter the race class during an SS when a race vehicle is experiencing mechanical problems. The top corporate teams use highly maneuverable four-wheel drive vehicles backed by camions carrying spare parts. Assistance Class vehicles are not normally allowed to provide support during an SS, other than in designated assistance areas.
- Road book
- The road book shows the route details for the following day, together with a simple chart known as a cell map. Within the enormous spaces of the African continent, competitors are required to adhere strictly to the designated course, which means plotting the route in accordance with the road book. However, the only information provided in the road book is the destination and the distance. Plotting the route is a difficult task that requires a good deal of experience. Thus, navigation skills are a vital component of the Paris-Dakar experience.
- SS is short for Special Stage, also known as Selective Sector. Each SS is like a time trial. The race results are based on the sum total of the various SS times, minus penalties where applicable. The fastest vehicle is the winner.
- A stage, also known as an etape, is the schedule for a single day of the Dakar Rally. Normally, a stage consists of liaison sections and the SS. A typical stage includes a liaison section from the bivouac to the SS start point, then the SS itself, followed by liaison to the next bivouac. In remote parts of Africa with few villages, the SS may take up the entire day.