Rally raid, also known as cross-country rallying, is a form of long distance off-road racing that takes place over several days. The length of the event can be as short as 2-3 days for a cross-country baja to as long as 15 days with marathon rallies like the Dakar Rally; with other cross-country rally events lasting 4-5 days. With skill in navigation being key, the driving skill and endurance of riders, drivers, co-drivers, and machines are put to the test. The total distance covered can be anywhere between 600km to over 5000km with terrain ranging from sandy dunes, forest roads, mountain roads, and dry river beds; among others.
The most well known of rally raid events is the Dakar Rally; a marathon rally which can last anywhere from 10-15 days. Other prominent marathon rallies include the Africa Eco Race and Silk Way Rally. Well known examples of cross-country rallies include the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, Rally of Morocco, and the Rallye des Pharaons. The Baja Aragón is an example of a cross-country baja with the Baja Russia Northern Forest taking place entirely in snow. Other examples of rally raid races include the TransAnatolia Rally Raid, Hellas Rally Raid, Borneo Rally Raid, and Raid De Himalaya.
The first African rally raid run was the Côte-Côte Rally, first held in December 1976.
While the sport is most known for the Dakar Rally, a number of international competitions also exist; the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies and FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Bajas for cars, buggies, SSVs, & trucks and the FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship and FIM Bajas World Cup for motorbikes & quads. For amateurs the Budapest-Bamako has been considered the world's largest amateur rally raid spanning two continents and 9000 kilometers.
Navigation is primarily accomplished using a paper roadbook in conjunction with a digital odometer to measure distance. The use of GPS or GPS-enabled devices, in contrast with desert racing, is not allowed.
The three major competitive groups in rally raid are the motorcycle (moto) class, including quads; the car class, ranging from 4x4 desert-racing prototypes to buggies and SxS vehicles; and the T4 & T5 truck class. Some events likes the ASO-sanctioned Dakar Rally separate the quads and SxSs into their own classes while the FIA and FIM-sanctioned events keep them as sub-classes.
The Moto class is divided between three groups. Group 1 is Marathon bikes, which are mildly modified production motorcycles, subdivided between engines of greater and less than 451 cc (28 cu in). Group 2 is Super-Production bikes, which are more substantially modified than Marathon bikes, subdivided between engines of greater and less than 451 cc. Group 3 is reserved for quads, and is subdivided between engines of greater and less than 500 cc.
Popular motorcycles include those made by KTM, Yamaha, Honda, and Husqvarna because many of their bikes have finished in top positions. BMW motorcycles and Triumph have also been successful in the Dakar.
The car class is made up of vehicles weighing less than 3,500 kg (7,716 lb) and subdivided into several categories. The T1 Group is made up of Improved Cross Country Vehicles, such as the Mitsubishi MRX09 Racing Lancer, Toyota Hilux overdrive, Mini X-raid buggy, and the T2 Group is made up of Cross Country Series Production vehicles such as Toyota Land Cruiser, Nissan Patrol and Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class. The Open class accepts weight-qualifying vehicles, such as SCORE International trucks, while the T3 category refers to Side by Side (UTV) vehicles made by Polaris, Yamaha, and Can-Am.
Other prominent examples in the Car Class included the Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero, the Volkswagen Race Touareg, the Bowler Wildcat 200 and the Nissan Navara. Recent race winners include the Peugeot 3008 DKR and the Mini All4 Racing.
The Truck class, also known as "Camions" or "Lorries" is made up of vehicles weighing more than 3,500 kg (7,716 lb). They are divided into two groups, Group T4 and T5.
The T4 Group is made up of trucks that actually participate in the competition, while the T5 Group is reserved for rally support trucks, which means they travel from bivouac to bivouac to support other competition vehicles. The T4 Group is further divided into two subgroups: the T4.1 class for production trucks, and the T4.2 class for modified trucks. T4 trucks may provide assistance during the special stages, but must be homologated vehicles. T5 trucks do not have to be homologated.
The T4 Group has been composed of vehicles manufactured by Tatra, LIAZ, Volkswagen, Kamaz, Hino, UD Trucks, MAN, DAF, MAZ, ZiL, Mercedes-Benz Unimog, Renault Kerax, Scania, Iveco and GINAF. In the 1980s, a strong rivalry between DAF and Mercedes-Benz led to vehicles which had twin engines and more than 1000 hp (750 kW). Later, Tatra and Kamaz took the race up. After 2000, renewed competition started in the truck class between DAF, Tatra, Mercedes-Benz, Iveco and Kamaz.