Rac­ers ready for 38th Dakar

The Witness - Wheels - - RACING -

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.

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