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Dakar Rally 2024: Path to eternal glory gets tougher than ever after crazy addition

Sand, stones and high dunes: the 2024 Dakar Rally is just around the corner. Starting January 5, the real daredevils will once again compete in Saudi Arabia. That battle is more exciting and tougher than ever.

Nasser Al-Attiyah
To news overview © Red Bull Content Pool

From January 5th to 19th, it's time again for the Dakar Rally. In Saudi Arabia, the setting for the world's toughest rally for the fifth time, twelve leaden stages have been mapped out.

In total, participants must cover 7,289 kilometers between Al Ula and Yanbu. RacingNews365 lays out the news and the main favourites for you.

What's new?

Marathon 48-hour stage
The organization had a spectacular surprise in store during the presentation: a 48-hour marathon stage around Shubaytah. The sixth stage lasts two days and is full of dangers. Eight small, primitive bivouacs have been rigged along the way, where participants are required to stop after 4pm local time on day one. Arrive at a bivouac before 4pm? Then you may choose whether to continue or stop. Entirely at your own risk, of course. The next bivouac is a bit of a drive, so you may end up in the dark.

An important note is that the marathon stage will be run in the Empty Quarter. Sand, sand and more sand, in other words. Navigation and risk avoidance are going to play an important role. On the second day, everyone gets to start again at 7:00am and the total time counts for the overall classification. Of course, participants will get no help from mechanics. The full route of the Dakar Rally can be found here.

The Dakar Rally has been all about innovations for a while now. Gert Huzink already competed several times in a hybrid Renault truck, while Audi even went a step further among the cars with an electric-powered bolide. This year even a sustainable class is being rigged: the M1000. Participants in this class, set up specifically for electric, hybrid and hydrogen vehicles, will drive part of a stage.

The favourites

Has the field of participants in the cars ever been this strong? Probably not. Five-time winner Nasser Al-Attiyah is the defending champion, but left the rally world stunned with his recent move to Prodrive Hunter, which will partner with Dacia from 2025. This makes the Qatarean the new teammate of Sebastien Loeb, who is still looking for his first Dakar victory.

Prodrive Hunter normally gets a lot of competition from Toyota, Al-Attiyah's old team. Yazeed Al-Rajhi is only too eager to shine on his home turf, while his teammate Giniel de Villiers already won the rally once in 2009. A dangerous outsider is Seth Quintero, who came over from the SSVs and took Al-Attiyah's spot. The 21-year-old Quintero finished second in 2023 and caused a furor by winning 12(!) stages in 2022. The American is competing in the cars for the first time. Lucas Moraes, last year's number three, completes Toyota's lineup.

Is Audi a favorite for the win? Looking at the drivers, you would say so, but is reliability in order? Stephane Peterhansel, Carlos Sainz senior and Mattias Ekstrom will start the race with shaky hands, as the hybrid car regularly breaks down due to technical problems. If everything stays in one piece, Audi could just end its Dakar adventure on a jubilant note. It will not be down to the drivers.

Tim and Tom Coronel are of course also participating again and aim to finish in the top twenty. Michel Kremer and Thomas de Bois will assist them in the other Century. Maik Willems and Robert van Pelt are participating on behalf of the Netherlands in a Toyota.

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			© Audi Communications Motorsport / Michael Kunkel
	© Audi Communications Motorsport / Michael Kunkel

A dutch affair?

There are quite a few entries from the Netherlands on the list this year. Janus van Kasteren is only too eager to prolong his Dakar victory in Team de Rooy's Iveco, but faces fierce competition.

What about Mitchell van den Brink? The young Brabander finished fourth last year and is hungry to achieve more. His father Martin van den Brink, a familiar name among rally followers, has already let it be known that he will help his son. There's no better support, you might say!

Of course, the danger does not only come from the Dutch. Martin Macik (Iveco), Jaroslav Valtr (Tatra) and Ales Loprais (Pagra) are important opponents, as is Pascal de Baar, who will also be competing in a Tatra. The Dutchman replaces the injured Martin Soltys, who finished fifth last year.

For the rest, it remains a Dutch party after all. Indeed, Vick Versteijnen and Richard de Groot are also names that can win a stage on a good day and usually stay out of trouble. There is special attention for Anja van Loon, the wife of Erik van Loon, who has already retired. She is competing in a truck for the first time, with an all-female team.

RacingNews365 will also report extensively on the Dakar Rally in 2024. Every day you will stay up to date with the latest news and the best videos from Saudi Arabia.

			© Florent Gooden / DPPI
	© Florent Gooden / DPPI

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