For its 3rd edition in Saudi Arabia; the Dakar opens up to hybrid cars; gives pride of place to the arena and promises to be as indecisive as ever. Explanations
Although the vast majority of the population appreciates Christmas Eve late at night; the Dakar riders will not be so lucky. From Jeddah; Saudi Arabia; everyone will be sure to shorten the evening and enjoy a well-deserved last break. Because on January 1; the caravan of the toughest rally-raids will leave. Certainly alone 19 km of special will be in the program but the pilots will have to travel 834 km of connection; which is more than a Paris-Marseille; enough to tire the organizations.
And that will only be the beginning: 12 stages are on the program; that is; 8;375 km to go; 4;258 km of special and a long circuit in the desert landscapes of Saudi Arabia.; as large as four times the size of France.
This year; the organizers faced an influx of participants with 149 cyclists; 97 cars entered105 SSV (mix between buggy and quad) and 140 vehicles entered in the Dakar Classic (which brings together vintage cars on a regularity route). This year; again; France will be the most represented nation with 196 drivers.
Audi: “A great leap into the unknown” (Peterhansel)
The great novelty of the year is the appearance of a new category in cars; the T1-Ultimate that brings together alternative energy vehicles. The Dakar is quietly making its green revolution with the goal of renewing the entire fleet by 2030.
Among the precursors; there is Audi. The German giant has developed a hybrid car; the Audi RS Q e-tron that develops 680 horsepower. A monster that asks: what about overheating of batteries? – but benefiting from the experience of exceptional talents; such as Stéphane Peterhansel; Carlos Sainz or Emil Bergkvist.
-It is a great leap into the unknown; admits Stéphane Peterhansel. Rally-raid is the most difficult automobile discipline for electric cars due to the distance; the conditions and what the cars endure in terms of heat; bumps; dust… –The car did not leave the workshops only in July; reliability inevitably raises questions.
The French GCK; which is developing a hydrogen-powered 4 × 4 by 2024; will be contracted with a vehicle that uses biofuel; managed by Guerlain Chicherit.
Toyota; time for revenge?
Between the thermal vehicles; the battle will rage. At[person]’s house Toyota Overdrive; the many punctures during the previous edition seem to have been forgotten. The introduction of the T1 + category has allowed them to develop a new car; the Hilux GR DKR Hilux. On board; Nasser Al-Attiyah and Mathieu BeaumelA three-time Dakar winner; this year he won the off-road rally World Cup by beating Andalusia; Morocco and Hail in Saudi Arabia.
It will also be necessary to monitor Sébastien Loeb whose BRX Hunter has been upgraded. “We have gained 20 cm in width; 8 cm in travel and above all we have much less punctures;” explains the Alsatian. His Dakar will be closely scrutinized: for the first time; he will not be ajournaltimepanied by Daniel Elena but by Belgian Fabian Lurquin; former co-driver of Mathieu Serradori.
Moto: KTM stronger than ever?
With motorcycles; we take the same ones and start over. “About ten of them can win;” said David Castera; the Dakar organizer.. Since two years ago; Honda confident of victories after ending 18-year-old KTM rule.
The Austrian brand hit hard by recruiting the defending champion; Kevin Benavides. With two other winners; Toby Price and Matthias Walkner; but also the presence of Sam Sunderland and Daniel Sanders in Spanish Cousin Gas-Gas; the KTM navy; is the big favorite.
At[person]’s house Honda; we will have the talent of Ricky Brabec; the young Chilean ‘Nacho’ Cornejo and the experienced Pablo Quintanilla.
Yamaha; which has not won since the success of Stéphane Peterhensel in 1998; will try to exit the game with Adrien van beveren. The Frenchman; who has had to retire in the last four editions; has the talent and experience to aspire to victory; if he avoids mechanical problems.
Finally; we will continue with curiosity. The debut of Italian Danilo Petrucci in the Dakar; winner of two MotoGP Grand Prix; who goes from asphalt to sandy tracks on the handlebars of a KTM.
The stage is set; the drivers can therefore express themselves: the first laps of the wheels are expected on January 1.
Photo by: Kin Marcin / Red Bull Content Pool
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