Racers ready for 38th Dakar
PREPARATIONS are in full swing for the 2016 Dakar, which starts just after New Year and will see 556 riders, drivers and truckers pit their vehicles against the desert for 9000 km two weeks in the 38th Dakar Rally.
The intrigue in the car category will be two-fold, with the matter of the continuing Mini supremacy, triumphant on the last four editions, and especially that of their leader Nasser Al Attiyah.
Having dominated last January to pick up his second title, the “Prince of the Desert”, he has gone on to outshine the competition on the rally-raid world cup, also adding an 11th success in the MiddleEast Rally Championship, and the WRC2 title.
Peugeot’s Stéphane Peterhansel, Carlos Sainz and Cyril Despres have been joined by nine times world rally champion Sébastien Loeb.
These four drivers will be counting on new version of the Peugeot 2008 to stay ahead of Toyota Gazoo Racing South Africa.
Their rivals include the Minis (Roma, Terranova and Hirvonen), and the Toyota Hilux of South Africa’s Giniel de Villiers.
De Villiers and Von Zitzewitz will again partner Poulter and Rob Howie for the 2016 Dakar Rally. However, this year also sees the addition of Saudi racing sensation Yazeed al Rajhi to the team.
He has German navigator Timo Gottschalk in the car beside him, and the pair completed a short test session of their own in South Africa earlier in November.
This year will be the Dakar to allow trucks into Bolivia. The 2016 route includes sections at an altitude of more than 3 500 metres.
The Russian Kamaz drivers have only missed out on one truck category title since the race switched to South America.
However, the winner of that title in 2012, Gerard de Rooy, has teamed up with his former rival Ales Loprais to attempt to counter the favourites.
The oldest truck racer, 74-yearold Yoshimasa Sugawara, has two new Hino trucks on his team and they aim for a seventh straight win in the class for trucks with engines under 10 litres.
Racers on quad bikes will be watching winners of four Dakars in the quad category, brothers Alejandro and Marcos Patronelli, who make their return after — as usual — not taking part in a single race to prepare for the world’s hardest enduro race. — WR.