Dakar Rally 2024: Battle Among Titans — A Manufacturer Preview

Bahrain raid extreme (motorsport.com)

A Closer Look at the Contenders and Prospects in the 46th Edition of the Dakar Rally

The Dakar Rally, set to take place entirely in Saudi Arabia for the fifth consecutive year, promises an intense battle among manufacturers. With key changes, star drivers, and technical innovations, the 2024 edition of the world’s premier rally-raid event is poised to be highly competitive. Let’s delve into the prospects of major manufacturers participating in this year’s Dakar Rally.

Prodrive: Aiming for Victory with the Hunter T1+

Prodrive, equipped with the formidable Hunter T1+, eyes its best chance for a Dakar victory in 2024. The significant addition to their lineup is five-time Dakar winner Nasser Al-Attiyah, who switched from Toyota. Alongside Al-Attiyah, nine-time World Rally champion Sebastien Loeb adds his prowess to the team. The absence of an overly-complicated hybrid system enhances Prodrive’s chances. With Al-Attiyah’s smooth adaptation to the Hunter T1+, and Loeb’s exceptional recovery in 2023, Prodrive emerges as a serious contender.

Toyota: Expanded Presence and New Faces

Despite losing Al-Attiyah, Toyota remains a force with a five-car factory lineup. Giniel de Villiers, the 2009 Dakar winner, leads the charge, aiming to emerge from Al-Attiyah’s shadows. Lucas Moraes, who impressed in 2023 with a third-place finish, secures a factory promotion. Seth Quintero, a T3 class winner, steps up, while newcomers Guy Botterill and Saood Variawa make their Dakar debuts. The upgraded Hilux pick-up, featuring improvements like increased width and updated suspension, will be Toyota’s weapon.

Audi: Familiar Faces and Revamped RS Q e-tron

Audi maintains consistency in its driver lineup with Stephane Peterhansel, Carlos Sainz Sr, and Mattias Ekstrom. Despite a disappointing 2023, the trio, backed by the revamped Audi RS Q e-tron, aims for a strong comeback. Audi’s overhaul includes updates to almost all components, improved balance, reduced weight, and enhanced reliability. This could be Audi’s final Dakar venture, depending on its future strategic decisions.

Ford: An Exploratory Entry with Nani Roma

Ford enters Dakar as a factory team with an updated Ranger, setting the stage for an exploratory effort before an all-new Dakar-spec Ranger in 2025. Led by 2014 Dakar winner Nani Roma, Ford’s involvement, in collaboration with M-Sport, poses a threat to existing contenders. The American marque will use this year to gather insights and prepare for a more significant challenge in the future.

Other Entrants: X-raid Mini, Century Racing Team, Rebellion Racing, and Overdrive

Several other teams are poised to challenge for a top 10 finish. X-raid Mini returns with drivers including Krzysztof Hołowczyc, Vaidotas Zala, and 19-year-old Pau Navarro. Century Racing Team, with Brian Baragwanath and Mathieu Serradori, seeks to capitalize on opportunities. Romain Dumas, a two-time Le Mans 24 Hours winner with Rebellion Racing, adds further intrigue. Overdrive, with Yazeed Al-Rajhi, is expected to contend for stage wins with Toyota machinery.

As the Dakar Rally 2024 unfolds, the battle among these titans promises exhilarating action, with each manufacturer vying for supremacy in the challenging terrains of Saudi Arabia.