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The grueling Paris-Dakar Rally Raid mauls competitors for 500-800 miles a day, through some of the most forbidding terrain on the planet. The survival rate for vehicles in this race is around xx percent. The support teams not only find a way to keep their drivers on the trek, but they manage to keep themselves and tons of supplies moving across the continent with them at high speeds. These are perhaps the most rugged trucks to be found anywhere. Most of them have military counterparts in active service.

The trucks used by support teams are based on all-wheel-drive off-road heavy trucks. Generally there are two sizes, a smaller, 2- or 3-ton truck for tires, jacks, hoses and spares, and a larger 5- to 10-ton truck for shop space, living quarters and supplies. Some teams have two or three of each size. These trucks are capable of sustained speeds of over 50 mph from sunrise to sundown across desert wastelands, frozen mountains, sand, mud and rocks. And that's not all. Several truck companies actually enter these trucks in the competition to punish them for thousands of miles, out of sight of any civilization. Companies like Mercedes, Unimog and Tatra know that tormenting their designs through this kind of a test wins more than races, they gain valuable sales through the recognition of their product's durability.

Applying these Lessons in Real Life

Like many other remote places, such as Alaska, the Arctic Circle and Africa, Australians have a need for rugged trucks like those seen in the Dakar Rally Raid. There are numerous outback operators running tours with large trucks of the same type, traveling long distances on a tight schedule across some of the least-populated and harshest deserts on Earth. There are rivers, mud and rocks, not mention crocodiles waiting for the unwary. This isn't the kind of place you want to break down while carrying a truckload of tourists. How do you design or custom-build a coach that can take this kind of abuse? According to the largest off-road parts supplier in Australia, Superior Engineering, an ultra-strong chassis is a great place to start.

It needs to maintain its integrity from corner to corner without excess flex, and provide a stiff structure to transfer power to the ground and to support the weight it's going to have to carry. Other considerations include enough horsepower to move this kind of a monster over obstacles and up hillsides. The extra-large tires seen on these trucks weigh hundreds of pounds apiece, and the heavy duty axles, gearing and driveline components also add thousands of pounds of extra weight. The suspension has to be beefed up to unbelievable levels to counteract the lever action of all the extra weight, once it's been raised as much as a foot in height.

You may never need to move 8 tons of equipment, people, food and parts for thousands of miles at high speed, but you can learn important lessons for your own truck by studying the construction, ideas and preparation that go into bringing these trucks back from the wilderness. Once you adapt this type of thinking to your truck build, you will begin to think of long trips into the country as just another Sunday drive with the family. There's no substitute for a seriously-prepared ride when the trail gets rough.