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2024 BP Ultimate Rally-Raid: Rokas Baciuska survives for maiden Challenger win

Rokas Baciuška was the model of consistency at the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge when he finished second across four of five stages, but it wasn’t enough to win the Challenger overall. While his BP Ultimate Rally-Raid finishes were more varied, he capitalised on his rivals’ mechanical troubles to score his first career win in the category.

Baciuška only recorded two podium finishes and even ended the race outside the top ten with an eleventh, but a Stage #3 win propelled him to the overall lead that he maintained across the final three days. He finished third in the first stage, but found himself fighting for position as he narrowly beat Paulo Jorge Rodrigues by two seconds to finish tenth in Stage #2.

At the front, Sébastien Loeb and João Dias were the stars of the show to start. Dias, who the reigning FIA European Baja Cup T3 champion, won the opening stage and went on to claim the T3 class overall on the Portuguese Cross Country Championship side.

Loeb, who finished third at the Dakar Rally in the Ultimate class, opted to drop down to Challenger for Portugal as Prodrive is focusing on developing the Dacia programme that will début at the season-ending Rallye du Maroc in October. Although new to the side-by-side class, he immediately made waves in his Taurus by winning Stage #2 and finishing just thirty-five seconds behind FIA overall stage and eventual rally winner Nasser Al-Attiyah.

Stage #3 ended up being their undoing as Loeb’s engine began to overheat while a gas pipe burst in Dias’ Can-Am Maverick. Loeb salvaged another stage win and a third in Stage #5, but finished outside the top ten overall. Dias notched a second in Stage #4 and settled for eighth. Although not the finish he wanted, Loeb described the Taurus as “fun to drive,” echoing sentiment shared by his longtime rival-turned-Prodrive colleague Al-Attiyah when he tested the car last July.

2024 BP Ultimate Rally-Raid: Tosha Schareina dominates in RallyGP

Tosha Schareina‘s first World Rally-Raid Championship season as a full-fledged member of Monster Energy Honda Rally Team started on a sour note when he crashed in the opening stage of the Dakar Rally. After he and the team skipped the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge (though he still kept busy by winning the FIM E-Xplorer World Cup season opener in Japan), the Spaniard got right back to work in the closest thing to a home race as he led the BP Ultimate Rally-Raid in Portugal from start to finish.

Schareina won the Prologue and never relinquished the lead from there. He added two more stage victories along the way, one of which came in the race’s leg crossing over into his native Spain. Although he finished outside the podium in Stages #2 and #4, he only barely missed out in both instances as Honda team-mate Skyler Howes held him off in both by just ten and fifteen seconds, respectively. He finished second to colleague Adrien Van Beveren on the fifth and final leg.

The win is his second in the W2RC after claiming the 2023 Desafío Ruta 40, but first as a registered championship rider. He is the tenth different points-earning rider to win a W2RC race since its inception in 2022.

“Super happy, super happy for my first victory in a world championship because a big part of the staff is Portuguese,” said Schareina. “Now it’s time to celebrate and think about the next one in Argentina.”

Sebastian Bühler, who also wrecked out of Dakar and missed Abu Dhabi as a result, returned to his home event with a strong outing as he scored his maiden W2RC stage victory. While he lost by a wide enough margin that a four-minute penalty in Stage #1 for missing a waypoint made little difference, a runner-up overall is still his first career podium finish.

2024 BP Ultimate Rally-Raid: Nasser Al-Attiyah takes Ultimate points lead

Nasser Al-Attiyah‘s quest for a third consecutive World Rally-Raid Championship started on the wrong foot when he retired from the Dakar Rally, but he seems to have regained his footing since. After winning the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge in February, he continued his newfound momentum with a victory in the inaugural BP Ultimate Rally-Raid.

Returning to Portugal, the site of his maiden race with Prodrive when he ran the Baja Portalegre 500 last October, Al-Attiyah won two stages and held off a late charge by João Ferreira to win by nearly three minutes. After winning the Prologue, Al-Attiyah had a relatively slow Stage #1 as he finished sixth before hitting his stride with back-to-back stage wins.

Yazeed Al-Rajhi trailed Al-Attiyah by just twenty seconds after Stage #2 but was eliminated by a rollover the following day, leaving Ferreira as the next closest rival. An SSV regular who switched to a Mini JCW Rally Plus for his home race, Ferreira sliced his deficit in half after Stage #4 to 2:41, but finished behind Al-Attiyah in the fifth and final stage. Ferreira also won the concurrent Portuguese Cross-Country Championship round that was run across the first two days.

With his win, Al-Attiyah moves past Ferreira’s Mini team-mate Carlos Sainz for the championship lead. His co-driver Édouard Boulanger, now two-for-two by his side, also assumes the top spot for his position.

“This was a very tricky rally and we had to be clever,” said Al-Attiyah. “Thank you to my co-driver Édouard and to Prodrive for the car. Now we have won two races and we’re leading the championship.”

2024 BP Ultimate Rally-Raid: Dumontier prevents Santos sweep in Stage 5

Bruno Santos entered the fifth and final stage of the BP Ultimate Rally-Raid with the Rally2 overall win in the bag, having won every leg in his class up to Sunday. While a clean sweep would certainly be nice, he opted to ride the 105-kilometre stretch at a safer pace, giving up going five-for-five to ice the overall.

Santos ultimately finished Stage #5 in third behind Romain Dumontier and Bradley Cox. Since he is not registered for the World Rally-Raid Championship like Dumontier and Cox, his conservative approach allowed them to scramble for points in the meantime. Dumontier, the reigning Rally2 champion, came out on top Sunday as he beat Cox by just thirty-one seconds and moved into third overall, though Cox still beat him by five minutes outright.

Like Dumontier, Nicolás Cavigliasso ended the rally with a stage win in Challenger, beating Luís Portela Morais and Sébastien Loeb by less than fifty seconds. Rokas Baciuška placed eleventh in just his second time finishing outside the Challenger top ten after recording an eleventh in Stage #1 of the Dakar Rally in January. In spite of this, his main rival Armindo Araújo finished further back in fifteenth to ice the overall class win for Baciuška.

João Ferreira needed to make up 2:41 to catch Nasser Al-Attiyah for the FIA win, but instead finished eight seconds behind him. Both placed behind Lucas Moraes for Stage #5, while Lionel Baud just missed out on a podium in fourth.

“Great to be able to finish this rally with a win, especially after what happened with us in Abu Dhabi,” said Moraes, whose Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge ended with his Toyota Hilux on fire. “Thanks to the whole Toyota team to deliver another great car. It was amazing to win today and finish third overall very close from the from the lead. Climbing the standings again.”

Carlos Tatay pursuing cross-country rally, Dakar Rally

A year after a back and spinal cord injury ended Carlos Tatay‘s burgeoning Grand Prix motorcycle racing career, he is ready to race again. This time, however, it will be behind the wheel of a Polaris RZR when he makes his cross-country rally début at the Baja España Aragón. Eventually, he hopes to make it to the Dakar Rally.

Tatay was paralysed in an accident during the 2023 Moto2 European Championship weekend at Portimão when he fell off his bike along the kerbs before sliding across the pavement into the tyre barrier, and the resulting injuries have forced him to use a wheelchair since. His recovery ended up sparking a legal battle between the Spanish and Valencian motorcycle federations over who would cover his insurance while undergoing treatment in Spain, leaving him on the hook for his medical bills. Tatay intends to file a lawsuit to end the saga.

The injury cut short a bright career for the Spaniard, who had won the 2019 Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup and finished third in that year’s CEV Moto3 Junior World Championship. He eventually reached the Moto3 World Championship, running the full calendar from 2020 to 2022 with a pole and podium in Indonesia during his final season en route to placing fifteenth in points. Tatay switched to the Moto2 European Championship for 2023 and won at Jerez the race before his accident.

“I was living the life I dreamed of, I was living what I loved, I was going to join the Moto2 World Championship for three years, and now being like this is tough,” Tatay told RTVE in February. “But you have to rebuild yourself and take the positive from every situation. There’s no other way to do it or you’ll live completely sunk. It’s hard to always find positive things, but they exist.

In his case, the positive is a chance to pursue one of the world’s most famous off-road races. While rally raid is certainly a challenging discipline, many have been able to compete despite their conditions such as fellow Spaniards Isidre Esteve and Albert Llovera, both of whom raced the latest Dakar Rally in January despite being paralysed below the waist. The Spanish Cross-Country Rally Championship (CERTT), which includes the Baja Aragón, has the ParaBaja Step by Step category for racers with reduced mobility.

Toys For Trucks continuing partnership with Dylan Parsons for 2024

After finishing fourth in points in his Pro SPEC rookie campaign Dylan Parsons has expanded his partnership with Toys For Trucks for the 2024 Championship Off-Road season.

Toys For Trucks first appeared on Parsons’ #99 truck for the penultimate round of 2023 Crandon. He finished fifth on Saturday in the points-paying World Championship Races event, then improved to a third on Sunday in his category’s Polaris World Cup event. They remained with him for the finale at MidAmerica Outdoors; despite having never raced at the Oklahoma track prior to the weekend, he enjoyed a career-best finish of second behind Nick Visser.

Parsons wrapped up the year with Rookie of the Year honours. He also notched three straight third-place finishes in Dirt City Race #2 and both Bark River races.

“I am grateful for the support of Toys For Trucks and our other partners as we gear up for another exciting season of racing,” said Parsons. “Their commitment to excellence mirrors our own, and I am confident that together, we will continue to compete at the highest level and make our mark in the world of off-road racing.”

He graduated to the Pro classes in 2023 after being one of the top drivers in 1600 Single Buggy, winning the 2021 championship and finishing runner-up the following year. The Checkered Flag spoke with Parsons prior to his maiden Pro SPEC season.

2024 BP Ultimate Rally-Raid: Maio, Yamaha win Stage 4

Yamaha might have folded their international rally raid programme following the 2022 Dakar Rally, but that doesn’t mean the Yamaha WR450F Rally can no longer make an impact in the World Rally-Raid Championship. A late run by Portugal native António Maio propelled him to the Stage #4 victory in his home country’s BP Ultimate Rally-Raid, marking the first bike stage win for Yamaha since 2021.

Maio took the stage lead in the final seventy kilometres after Honda’s Tosha Schareina, who had dominated for much of the the day, opted to race conservatively and “take good care of the material because it was a stage of wear and tear for the machine.” He had been chasing down Schareina in the first half and narrowed the gap to thirty-four seconds through the halfway mark before overtaking him, then held off Honda’s Adrien Van Beveren to win by twenty-nine seconds.

Coincidentally, Van Beveren used to race for Yamaha’s factory team until their shutdown. Van Beveren also scored the marque’s last stage win prior to Saturday when he won thrice en route to the overall at the 2021 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, the final race for the FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship prior to its reorganisation into the W2RC. Maio races for Yamaha’s Portuguese branch with factory support, albeit not to the degree that Van Beveren enjoyed during his time with the manufacturer. Yamaha still maintains an official presence in the discipline via the Ténéré Yamaha Rally Team, which enters independent rallies with the Ténéré bike rather than the WR450F.

Schareina settled for fourth, but still finished ahead of Sebastian Bühler to maintain an overall lead of four-and-a-half minutes entering the final day.

In an opposite of Schareina’s day, Manuel Andújar‘s win streak in Quad was cut short when his driveshaft broke while leading by three minutes. He rejoined the race twenty minutes later only to crash into a stopped bike; Quad classmate Gaëtan Martinez stopped to provide assistance. By the end, he finished a dismal seventh in class and lost the overall to Kamil Wiśniewski, now sitting fourth and fourteen minutes off the podium.

2024 BP Ultimate Rally-Raid: Drivers fall in cross-border Stage 3

Stage #3 of the BP Ultimate Rally-Raid took the World Rally-Raid Championship across borders from Grândola, Portugal, to Badajoz, Spain. The longest stage of the race at 388 kilometres, it was certainly a long day for much of the field.

After the muddy debacle over the first two days, some were unable to even begin the leg. Aliyyah Koloc retired after her team was unable to repair her damaged engine, while getting stuck in the mud led to a myriad of mechanical issues for Gonçalo Guerreiro that forced him to drop out. Stage #2 SSV winner Yasir Seaidan suffered a string of vehicle problems at the start of the leg. Eduard Pons‘ Ultimate début was cut short by the belt and alternator support breaking just eight kilometres in.

Vaidotas Žala exited following a bizarre development in which a team member tasked with refuelling inadvertently poured the gasoline into a container that previously held oil, contaminating the fuel cell when it went into the car and causing the engine to lose fuel pressure ten kilometres after the start. His Mini allies João Ferreira and Carlos Sainz had more luck as they finished third and fourth, albeit not a fully clean day as both received speeding penalties; Sainz’s car also took a beating, losing his hood and breaking a windshield wiper which greatly reduced his visibility.

Yazeed Al-Rajhi posed the greatest challenger to overall leader Nasser Al-Attiyah when he entered Friday trailing by just twenty seconds in the overall. Al-Rajhi took the lead as the stage hit the 100-km mark, only for his hopes to be dashed when he slid into a ditch and rolled onto his passenger’s side door. While his Toyota Hilux was able to reach the finish, marathon rules for the bivouac mean the crash could come back to haunt him on Saturday. Toyota colleague Lucas Moraes inherited the lead but had to slow his pace due to a tyre puncture, which Al-Attiyah capitalised on to win. Moraes’ Toyota Gazoo Racing team-mate Saood Variawa was handed a two-hour penalty and a suspended disqualification for speeding multiple times in a Speed Control Zone that mandated a limit of 50 km/h; his navigator François Cazalet explained he was feeling dizzy and was unaware they had entered the zone, so he told his driver to continue at his usual pace.

Sébastien Loeb and João Dias, who were top two overall in Challenger after Stage #2, both experienced vehicle trouble—Loeb in particular had an overheating engine—that ended their hopes of winning. Rokas Baciuška narrowly edged out Luís Portela Morais by two seconds to win the stage in the class and take the lead; both drivers’ final times were even faster than Moraes’ and Ferreira’s to finish second and third among all FIA cars. A similar development happened the previous day when Al-Attiyah held off Loeb for the outright stage victory by half a minute.

2024 BP Ultimate Rally-Raid: Bernardo Sousa leads locals with National win

The BP Ultimate Rally-Raid marked the World Rally-Raid Championship‘s maiden trip to Portugal, and one can bet their butt that the country, already one of the biggest hotbeds for cross-country rally in Europe, would turn out in force. The National class, filled almost exlusively with Portuguese competitors, ran the first three Selective Sections and two days alongside the W2RC while the race was still in the country.

By the end, Bernardo Sousa led a 1–2 finish for Benimoto Racing‘s Can-Am Mavericks. Sousa, a longtime rally driver who has competed in the World and European Rally Championships as well as the domestic series, set the fastest time in both Selective Sections that comprised Stage #1 on Wednesday.

Although he finished fourth in the shortened third and final SS, held Thursday in Stage #2, he still beat his Benimoto colleague Filipe Cameirinha by six minutes in the overall.

The National class started each stage well after everybody else, which created a nightmare situation when rainy weather the previous week resulted in a very muddy course that was further damaged by those who went before them. National cars were unable to race the Prologue on Wednesday morning because the artificial track set up in the outskirts of Grândola was filled with ruts from the W2RC vehicles. The remainder of SS3 was called off for the same reason as the National field was unable to make it beyond the twenty-ninth kilometre, and final times were handed out by extrapolating their position at the moment the race was stopped.

Edgar Condesso‘s Ford PROTO joined Sousa and Cameirinha on the overall podium as the T1 winner. While a win is certainly something to celebrate, he described it as having a “bittersweet taste” due to the weather forcing the final day’s abbreviation.

Audi withdraws W2RC appeal, back on hook for fine

Team Audi Sport has opted not to further pursue their appeal of the €750,000 fine they received for skipping the rest of the World Rally-Raid Championship. They paid off €187,500 of the fine within forty-eight hours of withdrawing the appeal but still remain on the hook for the remaining €562,500.

Despite winning the season-opening Dakar Rally, Audi shut down their rally raid division weeks later because they did not have enough parts to run the next round in Abu Dhabi. The Audi RS Q e-tron E2, being the only electric vehicle in the top-level Ultimate class, uses special parts that only a niche pool of vendors supply, some of which necessitate a years-long process. The team was already planning to disband at the end of 2024 after contesting the full season to focus on Formula One, though technical partner Sven Quandt noted that Audi AG’s new CEO Gernot Döllner did not wish to continue the effort after the Dakar.

Although the team stresses their shuttering was circumstantial, they had already signed up for the full championship. In response, the FIA handed down the fine on 27 February, the same day as Stage #1 of the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, with €562,500 suspended provided they do not skip anymore races. The fine was then frozen in its entirety when Audi announced their intent to appeal, only for the FIA International Court of Appeal to be notified of the withdrawal on 26 March.

FIA stewards formally announced Thursday, during Stage #2 of the BP Ultimate Rally-Raid, that the fine will now be enforced again. With Audi obviously not racing the event, which the stewards’ report mentioned, it is likely that the FIA will give them another fine and the same will continue for the remaining two W2RC races, the Desafío Ruta 40 and the Rallye du Maroc in October.

Teams that sign up for the manufacturer’s championship are required to enter all five rounds, which BAIC ORV learned the hard way in 2023 when they received a €10,000 fine and had all their points deducted after missing the last two events. Registering for the 2024 manufacturer’s points cost €55,000.

2024 BP Ultimate Rally-Raid: Loeb chases down Al-Attiyah in Stage 2

Sébastien Loeb versus Nasser Al-Attiyah is one of the most prominent rivalries in rally raid, even with the two now colleagues at Prodrive. They renewed their friendly feud on Thursday when Al-Attiyah narrowly beat Loeb for the BP Ultimate Rally-Raid Stage #2 win, but there’s a twist: Loeb is racing a Challenger car.

With Prodrive’s Bahrain Raid Xtreme not entering the rest of the season post-Dakar Rally as they prepare to transition to Dacia, Loeb elected to drop down from Ultimate to Challenger for Portugal, racing a Taurus T3 Max for Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team and BBR Motorsport. After finishing fourth in class in Stage #1, Loeb’s confidence and comfort in his new ride skyrocketed the next day as he set the second fastest time among all FIA entrants regardless of category and only thirty-five seconds behind Al-Attiyah’s Prodrive Hunter.

Had Loeb closed the half-minute gap, he would have been the first ever Challenger (formerly T3) driver to win an FIA stage outright under W2RC sanction. Even if not FIA-wide, he still claimed the Challenger win by over four minutes on Taurus ally Nicolás Cavigliasso and now leads the class overall by 3:54 over João Dias.

Al-Attiyah, who won the Prologue, spent most of the day chasing down Saood Variawa until the latter received a thirty-minute speeding penalty. The infraction added insult to injury for Toyota, whose Fall Guy duo of Stage #1 victor Guerlain Chicherit and Guillaume de Mévius were forced to retire with mechanical failures; Chicherit lost ten minutes while trying to cross a ford around a stranded bike rider then crashed into a tree stump. Fellow Ultimate driver Aliyyah Koloc retired when her REVO’s engine expired while trapped in mud.

João Ferreira finished third to secure the overall for the Portuguese Cross-Country Championship, which raced in tandem with the W2RC, while João Dias won in T3 and João Monteiro in T4. While the CPTT, which also consists of those racing in the National class, wrapped up their BP Ultimate Rally-Raid on Thursday, the W2RC will continue to Spain on Friday.

HIGHSPEED Etoile Racing formed, hopes to support women racers

As the premiere of the HIGHSPEED Étoile racing anime looms, the project will also bring its presence to real-life race tracks in 2024 in the form of HIGHSPEED Étoile Racing run by Platinum Factory Co., Ltd. The team hopes to develop and support female drivers, which will be reflected in their inaugural lineup of Kotomi Maeda and Ai Shimizu. Kohta Kawaai, the 2023 Super GT champion in the GT300 class, will serve as team director.

Development of the team began last fall before scouting drivers. Platinum Factory CEO Ryūtarō Nakagawa explained, “We not only want to create opportunities for women to play an active role, but we also want to create an environment where drivers can grow alongside the anime characters.”

Maeda and Shimizu will mainly compete in the all-women Kyojo Cup and co-ed Fuji Champion Race. Both series exclusively race Vita-01 cars at Fuji Speedway, mainly on the same weekend; they will begin their 2024 seasons together on 11/12 May, though the FCR is four rounds long while the Kyojo Cup spans six events. HSE Racing’s Vita-01 was revealed Tuesday, featuring protagonist Rin Rindoh and Kanata Asakawa on both sides of the livery. Fuji Speedway, albeit a futuristic rendition, is one of seven actual circuits that will appear in the show.

The team also plans to field electric cars in the All Japan EV-GP Series and All Japan Karting Championship‘s EV division. Their début will come at Tsukuba Circuit with the All Japan EV-GP Series on 27 April. The All Japan Karting Championship season begins at City Circuit Tokyo Bay on 2 June.

Maeda, who works at a car dealership, began kart racing when she was 21 years old. Shimizu was previously a track and field sprinter who became a truck driver.

2024 BP Ultimate Rally-Raid: Penalties wipe out Stage 1 bike podium

Bradley Cox was about to become one of the very rare instances of a Rally2 rider topping the bike overall when he set the fastest time in Wednesday’s opening stage of the BP Ultimate Rally-Raid. This was dashed when he received a twenty-minute penalty for leaving the neutralisation zone between the stage’s two Selective Sections too early.

The error dropped him to twenty-sixth among bikes and fifteenth in Rally2. He was not the only victim as eleven other riders made the same mistake including Adrien Van Beveren and Edgar Canet, who respectively finished second and fourth overall before penalties dropped them to fourteenth and sixteenth.

“I made an error leaving a transfer zone early and got smacked with a 20 min penalty,” wrote Cox. “Now all I can do [is] put my head down and try get some solid stages under my belt.”

Had the win stuck, Cox would have been the second Rally2 competitor to win a bike stage outright under World Rally-Raid Championship sanction after Michael Docherty won Stage #1 at the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge in February. Ironically, Docherty had also lost the overall stage victory in Stage #4 of the 2023 Desafío Ruta 40 though that was due to the stage’s starters—who raced in RallyGP—getting bonuses rather than self-inflicted wounds.

Others who left the transfer too soon and were docked time included Rally2’s Dwain Barnard, Paul Costes, Jorge Escobedo, Sergio Fernandez, and Adriá Pascuet; Rally3’s Rafic Eid, Francisco España, and John Medina; and Quad’s Alberto Prieto Ruiz.

2024 BP Ultimate Rally-Raid: Portuguese smash Prologue

With the BP Ultimate Rally-Raid marking the World Rally-Raid Championship‘s inaugural race in Portugal, those from the country were eager to showcase their skill in front of a global audience. Although Wednesday’s Prologue stage was only four kilometres long, they certainly got to set the tone early.

Portuguese drivers swept the Challenger podium as Luís Portela Morais led Miguel Barbosa and João Dias, while Gonçalo Guerreiro and João Monteiro finished 1–2 in SSV. Another top three run came in Rally3 led by Gonçalo Amaral, though the class was already filled with locals.

In Ultimate, Nasser Al-Attiyah made quick work as his Prodrive Hunter navigated it in three minutes and forty-one seconds, beating Lucas Moraes by six seconds. While the Prologue is relatively inconsequential for the overall as times from it do not count in the bigger picture for FIA categories, it is his second straight win in such a stage after Abu Dhabi and allows him to pick his starting position first. João Ferreira, the top Portuguese in Ultimate, finished fifth.

Al-Attiyah opted to start tenth for Stage #1 later on Wednesday while fellow Prodrive racer Marcos Baumgart will be the first out.

Tosha Schareina beat his Monster Energy Honda Rally Team colleague Adrien Van Beveren in RallyGP while Dakar Rally winner Manuel Andújar topped Quad ahead of Kamil Wiśniewski.

Anja Van Loon staying in truck for Dakar 2025, Erik Van Loon switching to Classic

Anja Van Loon and her husband Erik Van Loon will return to Saudi Arabia in 2025, albeit with some twists. While the former will be in the now-familiar confines of a truck contesting the Dakar Rally, the latter will make his début in the Dakar Classic as the driver of an Audi S1.

Erik raced the Dakar Rally from 2009 to 2023 with a best finish of fifth in 2015. His thirteenth and final start in 2023 began with a second-place finish in Stage #2 before retiring with a rollover five legs later. Although he continues to run rally raids today, the Dakar is too physically demanding for him to continue.

In contrast, the Dakar Classic is a navigation-based rally that uses vehicles built before 1999, meaning there is significantly less pressure and physical toll. His Audi S1 is being prepared by Coen Donkers, a fellow Dutchman who competes in historic rallies and the Goodwood Festival of Speed in Audi replica cars. Donkers and Audi Sport Veghel are also building Dakar Classic challengers for local drivers like Hans Stacey, the 2007 Dakar Rally Truck winner.

“The Dakar Classic is a regularity rally where the focus is not on speed but on the experience and driving through Saudi Arabia,” commented Erik. “Anja will be driving the truck again and I will be there anyway so I find it fun to participate. This way, I can still support her and also see some of the country. I will do this with an Audi S1, which I tested last week in France, and it’s just a lot of fun to drive. Coen Donkers is building the car and will build a few more for some other former Dakar participants from the area, so we have a nice group together.”

After finishing fourteenth in T3 (now Challenger) at her first Dakar Rally in 2023, Anja switched to an IVECO truck for the 2024 edition. She led an all-female team with Floor Maten and Marije van Ettekoven as co-driver and mechanic, the first truck crew composed of strictly women since 2004. Racing for Team de Rooy, she finished twelfth in class with a best stage finish of ninth twice in Stages #5 and #7.