Inmarsat helps competitors on gruelling Dakar Rally

Competitors in the Dakar Rally and photographers covering the gruelling motorsports event relied on Inmarsat for critical connectivity.

Many competing teams had the benefit of IsatPhone Pro global satellite phones, with several also carrying Inmarsat BGAN terminals.

And for photojournalists with the Brazilian agency Shez Communication, access to Inmarsat services meant they were able to capture all the action of the 5,160-mile (8,300-km) off-road race through Argentina, Chile and Peru.

Toughest event
The Dakar Rally is recognised as one of the toughest events in motorsports.

Of the 443 motorbikes, quad bikes, cars and trucks that started the race in Mar del Plata in Argentina on 1 January, only 249 made it over the finish line in Lima, Peru.

Continuing a longstanding relationship, Inmarsat again provided the Brazilian Petrobas Lubrax team with IsatPhone Pro and BGAN.

Broken clutch
The satellite phone proved itself to be an essential piece of equipment. Clutch failure could have put the team's truck out of the running, but a call to engineers in Brazil from the middle of the desert put them back on track to achieve eighth place overall – the best ever result for a Brazilian team.

And when the Petrobas Lubrax car was involved in an accident on a sand dune, IsatPhone Pro allowed the driver to contact the support truck for assistance.

“The rally organizers are not making satellite phones mandatory in the Atacama desert like it was in the Sahara desert in the past, but our team will never compete without IsatPhone Pro,” said team driver André Azevedo.

Highest ranking
Inmarsat service provider Tesacom supported nine teams through its regional offices in Argentina, Peru, Chile and Brazil.

They included Team Toyota Overdrive, whose driver Lucio Alvarez and navigator Bernardo Graue brought their Hilux in at 6th position in the general category – making them the highest ranked Argentines in the rally's history.

All the teams with an IsatPhone Pro had access to their support teams throughout each stage of the rally, however remote. Those with BGAN were also able to report their progress to rally followers via Twitter and Facebook.

Support technician
Tesacom also provided a technician who travelled with the competitors throughout the 16-day rally in case support was needed and additionally, the competitors could use the SAC 4333 to contact the 7 x 24 Tesacom's customer care centre.

“It is very important for our company to participate in this competition,” said Jose Elias Sanchez, Tesacom's chief executive officer.

“Being selected for the fourth consecutive time (since the Rally Dakar migrated from Africa to South America) for an event that really tests the systems in remote areas and critical situations is a very rewarding challenge.”

For Shez Communication photojournalists Harold Nogueira and Jose Mario Dias, the Dakar Rally was an opportunity to see how Inmarsat could help them cover a fast-moving race in challenging conditions.

Inmarsat service provider OnixSat supplied them with an IsatPhone Pro satellite phone, BGAN terminal and OnixSmart2, a hybrid tracking terminal with IsatData Pro technology

This allowed them to transmit thousands of photos, as well as videos and reports from the field to the popular Racing magazine and other publications in Brazil.

Hazardous route
Plus they had the security of knowing their position could be pinpointed and help could be summonsed if they got into difficulties along the hazardous route.

“Despite all the difficulties that the Dakar throws up for all participants – regardless of whether they are competitors, mechanics or media professionals – we were able to successfully accomplish our mission,” said Harold.

“Were it not for the support we received from OnixSat we would not have achieved the results we got, especially not at the speed at which our images were transmitted back to our base in Brazil.”

Wagner Eloy, marketing and sales director, OnixSat, said: “For OnixSat this was an important international event to participate in, where all the equipment was exposed to challenging climatic conditions. It showed how rugged the equipment is and how easy it is to use for communications and safety.”

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