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The road trip as sport

Readers old enough to have lived in America in the early 1990s might recall a Volkswagen advertisement that was centred on the German word ‘Fahrvergnügen’. While this word meaning ‘driving enjoyment’ is proper German, it was created especially for the ad campaign. In the discourse about sport whenever anything with an engine comes up, it tends to be focused on F1 or NASCAR or rally racing—in short, all the endurance and high performance drivers and engines.

Not many people talk about the road trip when motor sport comes up. I suppose it could easily be said that it’s not sport inasmuch as there is little or no competition and it’s possible to well out of shape to do a road trip. So maybe it’s wrong of me to write about the road trip as a genre of motor sport, but it’s something that deserves the attention of motorsport fans the world over. After all, there aren’t too many motor sport enthusiasts who don’t enjoy driving themselves.

It’s true that the road trip doesn’t require as much physical prowess as, say, tennis or football or sailing, but it does fit into the narrative of motor sport well. In fact, the road rally is essentially just a faster version of a road trip (and a far more dangerous one). Road trips are however one of the best ways to see a new country or region—and even your own country or region.

For me the greatest road trips are those that mimic the routes of the great road rallies. One of my top three dream road trip would be the Baja 1000. This rally, first run in 1962 as a race, goes up and down the Baja peninsula in Western Mexico. The race itself has different classes of vehicle ranging from pick-up trucks to Volkswagen Beetles. The rally is is off-road rally, which I wouldn’t want to do it my car, but even sticking to the paved roads the chance to drive through Mexico’s beautiful deserts and mountains would be well-worth the lengthy, dusty drive. And it must be said that doing this journey as a road trip as opposed to as a road rally has the worth-mentioning advantage of being able to have ample time to stop for copious amounts of delicious fish tacos! And at 1000 kilometres the journey is one that could easily be completed in a week or two, depending on how much sightseeing one fancies.

A journey that would certainly take more time and planning and would be even more dangerous would be the famed Paris-Dakar Rally, known now simply as the Dakar Rally. Running through the Western Sahara this route is shadowed by danger. The road itself has been known to disappear mid-race owing to the shifting sands of the Sahara and the storms that make the region so deadly.

While a road trip probably isn’t the best way to lose weight and get in shape, it’s worth considering it a sport, so keep that in mind before you plan your next holiday.

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