4 de mayo

Attiyah 3

Dakar 2023: driving through the Empty Quarter

The 45th Dakar Rally will start at the beginning of January. Where the participants in the three previous editions did a 'tour of Saudi Arabia', the fast caravan now travels from coast to coast. The mother of all rallies has been taking place in Saudi Arabia since 2020 and expectations about endless dunes were always high, but just as often this promise was not kept. Now then? In any case, a necessary greening is emerging.

The article below appears in the January edition of START'84

In the coming week, the teams of both the Dakar and the Classic Dakar will meet the Empty Quarter. A part of the world where nothing lives, where no one comes and where there are no roads or cities. Only sand with an awful lot of dunes. Will the participants reach the finish line? No major landslides are to be expected in the car classification. Reigning champion Nasser Al-Attiyah returns with co-driver Mathieu Baumel under the flag of the Dutch Eurol Lubricants. Together with the brand new South African rally raid champion Giniel de Villiers with co-driver Dennis Murphy and the team Henk Lategan with Brett Cummings, they represent Toyota GAZOO Racing in the now trusted Hilux.

Le Dakar marks the start of the 2023 World Rally-Raid Championship (W2RC) season, with Al-Attiyah and Baumel once again driving the toughest cross-country races in the world. The duo will also participate in all five rounds of the FIA ​​W2RC. The championship starts with the Dakar Rally, followed by the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge at the end of February, the Sonora Rally in Mexico in April, the Desafio Ruta 40 in Argentina at the end of August and finally the Morocco Rally, again scheduled for mid-October.

Defects fixed

In the case of heavy equipment, the proportions seem to be very different than in recent years. Because of their - idiotic - special mission, the Russians are forced to be absent from this segment. Will the Dutch truckers capitalize on their chances? In any case, it will be crowded, because at least ten participants see themselves on the podium at the finish in Dammam. This is how Martin van den Brink started with great confidence in his IVECO Powerstar. The absence of both Kamaz Master and MAZ offers him a real chance of victory or a podium finish in the truck classification. “Last year we only had four Kamazzes in front of us at the finish line and then I ran into a lot of problems myself with the tire deflation system and the temperature of the engine. If the block gets too hot, it will sacrifice power to save itself. Can you imagine that I still finished fifth. During the tests in Morocco, among others, we were able to determine that these technical defects have been resolved.


Super fit

With navigator Erik Kofman, who in his daily life works as an air traffic controller at Schiphol, I am convinced that we will drive at the front,” continues Van den Brink. “In any case, we will make it quite difficult for the other participants in the truck classification from Eurol Team de Rooy IVECO. It's not about preparation anyway. I'm super fit. Twice a week in the gym and fanatical motocross every week, that makes you strong.” With the pride of a father, the experienced Dakar-goer warns: “Who you should really keep an eye on is my son Mitchel. Last year he came in tenth overall with his fast assistance truck and that with a much heavier vehicle, while he also had to provide support to teammates. It could just be that he passes me and we turn the tables.”

Torpedo with advantages

Mitchel van den Brink, who also drives an IVECO with a torpedo front, is a bit more modest about his chances than his father. However, with Moises Torrallardona as navigator in the cabin and Jarno van der Pol as specialized mechanic, he has strong assets. “I am now in my fifth Dakar Rally, twice behind the wheel of an assistance truck and now for the first time in a competition version. Within team Eurol De Rooy IVECO we have agreed that all four teams will initially focus on their own opportunities. Only when there is a clear leader during the rest day will it be determined who will assist and who will go for the podium. Moises has navigated Gerard de Rooy several times and won prizes. We are well attuned to each other and have grown into a good team in three weeks of training in Morocco. In addition, the torpedo IVECO offers a number of advantages over the front steering model. It has more power, is lighter, equipped with an automatic gearbox and a lot more comfortable in terms of seating position. Moreover, he accelerates much faster.”


Uncertain for a long time

Ambition cannot be denied to Gert Huzink of the Riwald Dakar Team. He also sees a chance to get a podium spot. “I have spent months in the gym and feel super fit. Furthermore, the hybrid Renault truck with its beautiful concept is very strong.” It remained uncertain for a long time whether the entrepreneur from the east of the country would find time to start for the 45th edition of Le Dakar. “Seven months ago, our company Riwald Recycling, one of the world's most modern players of its kind, was approached for acquisition. Despite the sale to ArcelorMittal on January 1st, I will certainly continue to work there in the coming years. Firstly, to ensure that Riwald continues to recycle in the same sustainable way, and secondly, to ensure that our employees are well taken care of. Despite the busy period, however, I started the Dakar Rally with great enthusiasm.”


Charging batteries

Huzink follows enthusiastically: “For the fourth time already, we are driving the hybrid Renault, which was built by the Czech company MKR Technology. We set ourselves the goal of participating in Dakar in a CO2 neutral way, but that turns out to be not so easy. Of course we could fill the truck with batteries, but then it would be much too heavy and we would drive at the back. Moreover, the question is whether we will reach the finish at all. Not an option for me, because I want to ride in the front of the field. Winning is the goal, although we continue to develop the technique.” The Renault hybrid is legally limited to 140 km / h. The diesel engine has 840 hp and 200 hp of electric power is added, bringing the total to 1040 hp. “When driving downhill, we don't need this power and the electric motor works like an alternator to charge the batteries. It is connected to the gearbox via the PTO and helps the diesel engine when there is a high power requirement. As a result, we use less horsepower and save fuel. It also extends the life of the technology. We achieve three benefits for the environment: a smaller footprint, less consumption of fossil fuels and lower emissions.”