Dakar 2024: ‘Toughest Yet’ – Almost 5,000 kilometres over sand, stones and dunes
Last Monday, the Dakar community sat united in front of the screen. After a long wait, the A.S.O. finally presented the entire route of the Dakar 2024 through Saudi Arabia. Previously, the teams only knew the start town of Alula, the finish town of Yanbu and the rough route. Rally Director David Castera began with a clear statement: “This will be the toughest edition since the rally moved to the Middle East.” The crews have to cover a total of 7,891 kilometres in January, 4,727 of which are against the clock.
As always, the Dakar starts with the technical and administrative checks. These take place on January 3rdand 4th, 2024 at the start camp in Alula and end with the opening ceremony. After a short prologue on January 5th, the Dakar starts its first leg to Al Henakiyah one day later. From there it continues to the south-east of Saudi Arabia and the “Empty Quarter”. On January 13th, the drivers can take a short breather on the rest day in the capital Riyadh before the second part of the Dakar 2024 takes them to Yanbu. There, the Dakar entourage will celebrate crossing the finish podium on January 19th.
The “48h Chrono” stage in the “Empty Quarter” is a novelty: it resembles a marathon stage. The crews have to get by without their team and mechanics for one night. But in 2024, the A.S.O. will go one step further. At 4 p.m. on the first day of the “48h Chrono”, the stage will be stopped and the crews will have to drive to one of the six bivouacs. There they have no contact with the outside world and therefore do not know where their competitors are.
The X-raid team and the X-raid Yamaha supported Team are in the final stages of their Dakar preparations. Next week, the service and race vehicles will leave the headquarters in Trebur for Barcelona. There, after scrutineering, the vehicles will be loaded onto the ship to Saudi Arabia. The team members will then also be travelling to Alula at the turn of the year.
Ignacio Casale: “I’m very excited because it’s going to be a difficult Dakar. There should be more dunes than in the last edition – that suits me. The stages will be longer and more difficult. That’s how the Dakar used to be! I’m very happy about that. But we have to work hard to get through it. The “48h Chrono” stage is a new addition. That will be a big challenge. I think that we will already see a certain preliminary decision in the results by the rest day. I’m looking forward to competing with X-raid and Yamaha again.”
Krzysztof Holowczyc: “I’ve been to Africa, I’ve been to South America, now the 11th Dakar in Saudi Arabia. I’m a „legend“ driver – any driver who has 10 Dakars on his account gets that status. The latest edition is a completely different rally than the one I remember. Our program this year – Road to Dakar – included three cycles, the World Cup, the FIA European Cup and the Polish Championship, precisely to prepare for the rally as well as possible. Dakar has always been and will continue to be an extreme challenge, in the latest edition we have thirteen days of competition, a prologue and twelve special stages, nearly five thousand kilometers of special stages and almost eight thousand kilometers of the entire rally. The numbers itself show what a huge challenge we are dealing with. It will be a very difficult rally, a mass of competition and challenges! We will get the best out of ourselves and the result, as always in the Dakar, is the sum of luck, the strength of the car and our skills. We will certainly give our best and believe in success. I am extremely happy and already looking forward to it!”
Pau Navarro: “We are already very excited. In the first week we have a lot of different terrain ahead of us. In my opinion, the second week will be even more difficult because of the many stones. Let’s see what tactics we use with the MINI JCW Rally Plus: calm or attack.”
Vaidotas Zala: “I think it will be a tough Dakar. It’s exciting to see new formats, like the “48h Chrono” stage. It means two days in the “Empty Quarter” and therefore fully in the dunes. I think that the second part of the Dakar will be a challenge. There are a lot of stones waiting for us, especially towards the end. There were a lot of problems with the tyres in this region last Dakar. This Dakar will not only depend on speed, but also on stamina