Rally Dakar 2019 Exclusive: the daily log of one of Brembo's brake calipers


 Our correspondent at the Dakar 2019 is going to tell us about the hardest rally-raid in the world: an unprecedented report on a race day.

​​​​​​​Hi, I am one of Brembo's calipers, and I want to tell you about my standard day at the Dakar race, the world's hardest car competition: over 3 thousand miles throughout Peru, of which almost 3,000 are of Special stages.​​

Right now, I am in Arequipa, Peru, at 7,661 feet above sea level. I am part of the braking system of an important team participating in the Dakar Rally and a contender for the final victory. Along with my teammates, the disc and the brake pads, we make up the Brembo braking system, a very efficient team designed and custom built to equip the vehicles that aim to win the Dakar Rally.

After all, we were all born into the business: our ancestors, namely the Brembo braking systems of the past, won this race many times, as far back as the days when it was held in Africa and it was still called the Parigi-Dakar.  


7 AM NONE SHALL SLEEP​​: Yesterday evening, after a few hours dedicated to cleaning and checking my components, the mechanics put me back on the vehicle so I would be ready for today's stage: if, on the other hand, they had found any problems, I would have ended up in the locker room and another would have taken my place. I have just had a colossal night's rest: 9 hours in a row, oblivious to the noises that characterise bivouac life.

8 AM MUSCLE WARM-UP​​: the driver starts the car and we drive a couple hundred yards across the camp to reach the starting place for this stage. It is a bit like stretching before a workout. My 6 pistons move back and forth 5 or 6 times - the ideal way to check their operation and the feeling with my coworkers: the Brembo pads which, for the occasion, are 6.5 inches long (the ones used for rally races are 5.5 inches), and the brake disc, also from Brembo. Its diameter is 13.98 inches and it is made up of a cast iron braking band and an aluminium housing that combine resistance and light weight. Braking shows no signs of problems and I begin to warm up.



8.40 AM WHO HAS BEGUN​: the special begins and it is time to get down to business. First gear, second, third, “watch out for that embankment up there”, I hear the co-driver announce. I get ready too. The foot presses on the pedal that transfers force to the brake fluid which gets to me in a flash: my pistons activate and push on the pad which make contact with the brake disc. The driver has calculated timing and pressure to perfection. We drift through the turn and begin to accelerate again. The first braking section of the day is behind us. We have broken the ice.

10.10 AM THINGS GET SERIOUS​: for two hours, the ritual is repeated at irregular intervals: the only change is in the force the driver applies to the pedal and the duration of the operation. Between the rising sun and the repeated stress, my body temperature has risen, now at about 190°C, but I am feeling in form. I have trained long and hard so I can work without failing, not even and higher temperatures. My optimum temperature range goes from 150°C to 200°C but even at 230-240°C I can carry out my functions.


Braking systems: rally vs rally-raid.

​ The braking systems for the Dakar Rally stand out from those used in rallies because of their sturdiness and duration.​


11.05 AM I DON'T BEND NEITHER I BREAK​: we just tackled a frightful braking section, going from 112 mph to 37 mph. Incredible stress, especially considering the fact that the car I am mounted on weighs almost three times that of a rally car. The part that heated up the most was the disc: its braking band reached 750°C, but it did not suffer any deformation whatsoever. To prevent this problem, Brembo engineers have worked on float, which makes it possible to prevent its dilation.

12.45 PM WATCH OUT FOR THE STONES​: this stone-infested section was not what we needed. Driver and navigator are bouncing from side to side, but fortunately, I am still solidly anchored to the car. Naturally, I have also been struck by more than one stone, but despite the blows received, I am still here at full operation. Speaking of which, I would like to publicly thank the designers who placed the channels internally and the bleed plugs inside the caliper, averting contact of my vital parts with these treacherous rocks. Mother Brembo designed us strong and sturdy: I am made of aluminium, starting from a single block of cast aluminium.



1.20 PM SAND EVERYWHERE​: this section of dunes seems to last forever. It is a constant up and down during which I spend most of the time just watching. In fact, you don't need the brakes to get to the top. All you need to do is dose out acceleration to prevent the risk of getting stuck in the sand or flying over the dunes at an excessive speed. I hear a few parts of the car complaining because the sand has gotten everywhere: “I've got sand in my underwear” says a component that I would rather not name here. I, on the other hand, can't complain because I was designed to prevent sand from accumulating inside me, which would compromise my performance.

2.40 PM A PERFECT PHYSIQUE​: we have passed the fifth checkpoint of the day and everything seems to be going well. I had a chance to rest during the sandy sections and now I am feeling in top form. The pad is bearing the brunt of the stress and all the rubbing against the disc has really slimmed it down: at the start it was 0.71 inches thick, whereas now it is about 0.6 inches thick (but after a Marathon stage it drops to 0.43 inches). However, unlike other pads which change shape as they get thinner, my friend has worn evenly thanks to the 6 pistons inside me that operate on her entire surface.


4.25 PM​ AIR TO MY LUNGS​: the stage is coming to an end, so we need to give it our all. On this dirt road we reach decent speeds, even on turns, and the driver is definitely having fun: you need the brakes often to stay on the trajectory, constantly correcting the car's line. However, this does not let the braking system “cycle” because it is constantly under pressure: the Brembo brake fluid reaches a temperature of 250°C, but its boiling point is much higher than the average fluid, so its properties remain unaltered. The caliper and discs also struggle to stay cool, but thanks to the customised venting, they are able to maintain their values.

5.30 PM I NEED A SHOWER: the special is over. We are approaching the bivouac at cruising speed over a few miles. We are all revved up about finishing another day impeccably. It is time to say goodbye, because once we get to the bivouac, the mechanics will disassemble the car. We can't wait to be in their hands for the cleaning operations, although it is always a bit embarrassing because they inspect every single cavity to ensure that there are no problems. Since I think the mechanics will declare me fit, tomorrow I will be in the race again, unlike the disc and the pad which are replaced after every stage. If you will excuse me now, I am going to phone home.​