Dakar 18 – Navigation Guide

Hey, you! Tired of hearing your annoying co-driver shout over your shoulder about how lost you are? These tips will help you vanish him out of existence and become a true Dakar navigator, which is much more simple than it looks. Straight ahead!!


In real life Dakar, co-drivers are crucial. Their interpretation of the roadbook must be precise and fluid to aid the main driver to the finish line in the shortest time possible.

But in this game, the guy has won the scorn of many. He shouts too much, overreacts to everything you do, and will simply annoy you with comments about your driving and how lost you are without actually helping.

Fortunately, you can apply a virtual tape to close his mouth shut in the form of voice level, so with these tips you can learn how to navigate while being fast and concentrated. After all, if bikers can do this, you can too.

The Basics

Assuming you’ve watched the tutorial already, then you may have a grasp of how to read the Road Book. I won’t explain it here (that’s not what this guide is for), but it doesn’t hurt to give a second look.

Simple, huh? Well, not really. You see, the Road Book is detailed but not flawless. It gives you an idea of the best route to take to the next waypoint. Here´s some important advice before dealing with navigation:

1. Learn your symbols! The briefing provides a glossary of all the terms, abbreviations and symbols. Some are rare to find, but others are crucial, like knowing the difference between on and off-road arrows, and anticipating how dangerous the path is before you take it at full speed.

2. Don’t rely on the CAP alone! The Cap number is your compass, but when you start a stage, you need to identify where are the four cardinal points in relation to the environment. This isn’t strictly necessary, but it provides additional references (like the Sun) when looking for an specific direction. Remember that…

  • North (N): 0° = 360°
  • Northeast (NE), 45°
  • East (E): 90°
  • Southeast (SE), 135°
  • South (S): 180°
  • Southwest (SW), 225°
  • West (W): 270° 
  • Northwest (NW), 315°

3. Don’t be afraid to scroll the book manually! While the game does help you by scrolling to the next note automatically as soon as you reach the previous one, you can scroll back and forth for reviewing or anticipation. If you’re driving in a straight, open course, checking a few panels ahead can give you an idea of when to turn and how fast, saving you precious seconds. If you’re lost, you can review previous notes to return to a point you remember passing. You are in control.

4. Be quick, but also be patient! This won’t be easy at first, and you’ll get better with practice, but it’s better to go slow and steady with a good sense of where you are going, than smashing the gas hoping for the best. Don’t forget: When in doubt, stop, take a look around, review your course, confirm your direction and off you go.

5. Don’t withdraw! Don’t be a quitter. The penalty for returning to the last waypoint automatically is insane. Believe it or not, returning to it by yourself and restarting from there can take you 5-10 minutes, in contrast of the 20 you get. Again, take a breath, return and start over.

Still with me? Good, here comes the fun part…

Navigation for Dummies

So now that you got the basics, let’s see how it works, shall we?

Here we got a simple map with a few landmarks. We need to reach the finish line, plain and simple, but we need to check the waypoints first. Where they are? We have to find out. I won’t create a roadbook out of this, but I will tell you the key elements that you need to consider when using one:

1. Align the cap, ride the distance, change cap, repeat

This is how the roadbook should be read: As soon as you start, head to the CAP assigned (the number next to the arrow at the right) and align to it. Keep it straight until the odometer reaches the Estimated Distance Number (let’s call it EDN, the number at the left). The note should be passed automatically, so slow down, check the next CAP, turn to it, and ride there while checking the odometer. Repeat until the end. Keep in mind that the odometer resets to the EDN assigned to the waypoint as soon as you reach it, so no need to worry if you took additional kilometers in your route. (Note: The roadbook illustrated here isn’t from the game, but it’s an idea of the numbers you need to pay attention to.)

2. The route between two waypoints is always a straight line (with a few exceptions), so take it accordingly

As obvious as this statement is, it’s crucial to consider this at all times. Now, it’s damn hard to keep the vehicle stable, sure: The terrain is rough, traction is not always at hand, and a few slip here and there can cause a spin, but you need to keep your direction to CAP as straight as possible.Take the environment in consideration: If a dune is very steep and you need to take it sideways, if you slip down to the bottom you need to find a way to reconnect to the imaginary line. If there’s a sand trap in your route, circle it, but as soon as you’re on the other side, retake the line as if you drove straight. Now, all of this doesn’t have to be exact. If you need CAP 88, as long as you’re between 82-94, you’re fine, but always try to compensate for 88. If your roadbook says to take a defined road, just follow it, but be alert for changes in direction.

3. The direction and speed at which you take the waypoint is critical

Since the route between waypoints is an ideal line, the changes in direction are supposed to be taken at exactly the same place the WP was checked. Let’s suppose the first waypoint was located at the top of a large bump. You take it at full speed, the WP is checked while in the air, you land and brake hard…and THEN you turn to the corresponding CAP. Here’s the problem: Since you added so many meters to your change of direction, when you head to the next WP, your line is way off the ideal line and so you encounter either a different landmark your roadbook dictates, or absolutely nothing. Remember: Unless the next CAP is straight ahead or a few degrees off, it’s always a good idea to slow down as you reach the current one. This varies from vehicle to vehicle, as I will point out next.

4. Consider how fast your vehicle can turn

The nimble bikes can slow down fast, switch directions and accelerate with outstanding precision, which makes them ideal to follow ideal straight routes. Bigger vehicles like trucks have a hard time turning, so when switching to another cap, you need to consider the amount of distance required to turn in relation to the previous point. Cars also require a bit of this, but they can drift, so no problems here (unless you’re at the side of a steep dune)

I’m lost! Help!

If you ever get lost, don’t panic! There are a few tricks that can get you back on track

1. A fellow competitor is also your friend

One of the beautiful mechanics of Dakar 18 is that you can rely on other competitors to save you from being completely lost. If you don’t know where to go, go to the highest place available nearby and wait. If you see a fellow racer, go to him, but it’s always a good idea to check FROM WHERE he comes from. If you ever miss a waypoint, the trail left behind by the other guy might tell you where it is.

2. Substract 180 and turn around

Ok, this may be a bit too technical for some, but hey, it’s fun! If you got a calculator near you, it can be a neat gizmo to help you recover your route. If you ever get lost, instead of turning around blindly, just halt, check the CAP you’re heading, substract 180 and head in that direction. Eg. CAP 287 – 180 = CAP 107. With practice, you could do the entire route in reverse! (I haven’t done this, so the challenge is open).

3. Remember a landmark every few waypoints and return to it when in doubt

Self explanatory. If there’s a particular rock or house you can remember, use it as a reference and start from there.

Again, I definitely recommend finding a missed waypoint by yourself instead of let the game do it for you while taking a penalty. Not only it’s exciting, but it’s real training that will sharpen your navigation skills.

If all hope is lost, though, just restart. It’s a game, after all!

Volodymyr Azimoff
About Volodymyr Azimoff 13352 Articles
I love games and I live games. Video games are my passion, my hobby and my job. My experience with games started back in 1994 with the Metal Mutant game on ZX Spectrum computer. And since then, I’ve been playing on anything from consoles, to mobile devices. My first official job in the game industry started back in 2005, and I'm still doing what I love to do.

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