- Riders, drivers and crews completed technical and administrative scrutineering
- Dakar and W2RC title holder Nasser Al Attiyah will be competing in a Hunter BRX with Sébastien Loeb as a team-mate.
- KTM could feature in house rivalries with Toby Price showing more consistence than 2023 winner Kevin Benavides who has just recovered from injury.
- Welcome ceremony to feature traditional singing, dancing, BMX acrobatics, sever DJs and a competitor parade on foot.
One day to until the 46th edition of great Dakar race gets underway. Today was all about the technical and administrative side of the race and sizing up competition and team mates.
Two Lions Want to Rule The Desert
Nasser Al Attiyah and Sébastien Loeb enter the 2024 Dakar as team-mates for the first time in their careers with Loeb finishing as runner-up to Attiyah in recent Dakars.
On the pairing, Attiyah had this to say in the lead up to the start “Two top drivers in the same team is not always easy, but we get on really well with Seb. We are totally open and each one of us is free to go for the win, but it will also be very important to help each other out. If he is leading the race, I will help him if he needs and vice versa. We are not just talking about this Dakar, because we’ll be team-mates until 2027, so it’s very important to cooperate. Seb is also happy about my arrival because to have a good team you need at least two good drivers!”
Mathiu Baumel, long time accomplice and co-pilot to Attiyah was looking forward to having teammates after being on their own at Toyota in previous years “This transitional period will lead us up to three wonderful years with Dacia. Today, the idea is to start working together with the engineers, mechanics and also our team-mates. It will allow us to work differently. Instead of taking risks all alone over a fortnight of racing, we will be able to share the work. For Nasser and I, it’s a big change, because we were always on our own with Toyota. We didn’t have team-mates capable of taking command of the race for a day to pull us along in their wake. We had to drive fast, find the right strategy, avoid any mishaps and it was a pretty tough job to handle”.
Back with a Bang
Joan “Bang Bang” Barreda, the record holder for stage victories in Dakar among the active competitors returns again hoping to keep his streak of never leaving the Dakar empty handed since 2012. The Spaniard crashed out on Stage 9 last year with a back injury, however he still managed to extend his stage wins to 29.
Barreda returns with Hero MotoSports reacquainting himself with Wolfgang Fischer, the manager who recruited him in 2012 before moving him on to Honda. In addition to riding the number 88, Barreda has also been put in charge of training the Indian team’s riders and developing the bike.
“I feel good, but there are questions that need answering after a year without competition and with the prospect of all these days on the bike to come. My mental strength is still as strong, but let’s see where I’m at by the end of the first day. One and a half months ago I started to feel pain in my back again, so I hope I’ll be able to deal with it”.
Challenges of Stages Thousands of Years in the Making
On stage 1 of the rally from AlUla to El Henakiyah, there will be a stretch spanning 150 km featuring rocks which race director David Castera says “could cause some damage”. On the return to AlUla, stage 11 will return to 2023’s stage 2 which was regarded as a black day for the Prodrive team which ran out of spare wheels after repeated punctures.
Punctures will be a major challenge on some days which is where having teammates will come as an advantage to some teams with the thirteen Hilux cars running under Toyota Gazoo Racing and Overdrive Racing having the most potential to assist each other with spare wheels.
Prodrive could also take advantage of this situation with seven Hunters taking part in the 2024 Dakar. Sébastien Loeb was quick to point out, “that doesn’t mean they’ll stop to help out,” especially on a first stage where there will be everything to play for. That said, a new feature will have to be taken into account..
The new feature? Since the Rallyu du Maroc, the official teams above have all been equipped with the new BF Goodrich KDR 3 tires which are more versatile than the previous version and boast reinforced blanks, designed to limit the number of punctures.
Competitors, spectators and viewers will have a better idea of what is in store in 48 hours’ time, once the rally has made it through the terrain of volcanic rocks that have been awaiting the race for thousands of years.