The anticipation is building as the 2024 Dakar Rally gears up to kick off in Saudi Arabia on January 5th. This fifth iteration in the challenging Saudi terrain promises to be more thrilling and demanding than ever before. Rally enthusiasts and daredevils alike are gearing up for a spectacle of sand, stones, and high dunes spanning from January 5th to the 19th.
The Route Unveiled
The rally spans 7,289 kilometers from Al Ula to Yanbu, with twelve leaden stages strategically mapped out. From navigating treacherous landscapes to enduring the endurance-testing Empty Quarter, participants will be pushed to their limits.
Marathon 48-hour Stage
A game-changer this year is the introduction of a 48-hour marathon stage around Shubaytah. The sixth stage demands participants to navigate through the Empty Quarter’s endless sand. The catch? Eight small, primitive bivouacs await, where participants must halt after 4 pm on day one. Opt to push forward after the deadline, and it’s entirely at your own risk. The next bivouac might be a challenging drive away, potentially leading competitors into the dark.
In the spirit of innovation, the Dakar Rally introduces the M1000 class. This sustainable category is dedicated to electric, hybrid, and hydrogen vehicles, adding a new dimension to the competition.
The Favourites to Watch
The 2024 Dakar Rally boasts one of the strongest fields in the cars category. Nasser Al-Attiyah, a five-time champion, has left the rally world astonished by joining Prodrive Hunter, shaking up the dynamics for the upcoming years. His new teammate, Sebastien Loeb, adds an extra layer of competition.
Prodrive Hunter vs. Toyota
Prodrive Hunter’s main competition comes from Toyota, Al-Attiyah’s former team. Yazeed Al-Rajhi aims to shine on home turf, and teammate Giniel de Villiers, a past champion, adds experience to the mix. The unexpected entry, Seth Quintero, a 21-year-old switching from SSVs, brings an element of surprise after finishing second in 2023 and winning 12 stages in 2022.
Audi’s Reliability Question
Audi’s lineup, though strong on paper, raises questions about reliability. Stephane Peterhansel, Carlos Sainz senior, and Mattias Ekstrom face uncertainties due to the hybrid car’s technical issues. If they can keep their vehicles intact, Audi might just claim victory, making it a test of both skill and machinery.
A Dutch Affair?
The Dutch contingent adds a layer of excitement to the rally. Janus van Kasteren, eager to defend his Dakar victory in Team de Rooy’s Iveco, faces formidable competitors like Mitchell van den Brink, hungry for success after finishing fourth last year.
Dutch Participants to Watch
The Dutch presence extends beyond van Kasteren and van den Brink. Martin Macik (Iveco), Jaroslav Valtr (Tatra), and Ales Loprais (Pagra) pose significant threats. Pascal de Baar, replacing the injured Martin Soltys, adds another dimension to the competition. Notably, Anja van Loon, wife of retired Erik van Loon, joins with an all-female team, adding a touch of diversity to the Dutch representation.
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As the 2024 Dakar Rally unfolds, the blend of challenging terrains, innovative twists, and fierce competition promises an unforgettable spectacle. Brace yourself for the sandstorms, the roar of engines, and the pursuit of eternal glory in Saudi Arabia.
The marathon stage introduces a two-day challenge in the Empty Quarter, with participants navigating primitive bivouacs and making crucial decisions.
The M1000 class adds a sustainable touch to the rally, featuring electric, hybrid, and hydrogen vehicles on specific stages.
Nasser Al-Attiyah and Sebastien Loeb represent Prodrive Hunter, while Yazeed Al-Rajhi and Giniel de Villiers lead the charge for Toyota.
Audi’s challenge lies in addressing reliability concerns with their hybrid car, as technical issues have plagued them in the past.
Keep an eye on Janus van Kasteren, Mitchell van den Brink, and Anja van Loon for notable performances from the Dutch contingent.