Peugeot, Toyota, Mini headline 2018 Dakar entry list
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Peugeot’s bid for a third consecutive victory and challenges from Toyota Gazoo Racing and the X-Raid Mini team are the headliners among a 337-strong entry chasing Dakar Rally honours next month.
The 40th edition of the Dakar marathon — held in South America since 2009 — follows a significantly changed route in 2018.
The start has moved to the Peruvian capital of Lima on January 6 with the opening days in the dunes of Peru before racing into Bolivia and the high-altitude dunes and salt flats of the Altiplano. The route then crosses into Argentina and the finish on WRC roads around Cordoba on January 20.
There are 14 days of competitive stages and a rest day on January 12 in La Paz, Bolivia.
For the 105 competitors in the car division and 40 truck entries the Dakar route totals almost 8800km with nearly half being timed selective sections. Bike and quad racers follow an 8200km route with 4234km of Selective Sections.
“Coming back to Peru, and for longer than in 2012 and 2013, has given us the opportunity to explore unknown territory,” said Marc Coma, sporting director of the Dakar.
“Competitors will be faced with all the different sandscapes of the country, setting high standards right from the start of the Dakar.
“The Bolivian stretch — physically demanding yet offering stunning landscapes — will test the adventurers to the limits of their endurance.
“But decisive challenges will still await them in Argentina, where the Dakar theoretically reaches its most difficult part with the Super Fiambala stage. This is where racers will need to stand out from the crowd if they hope to triumph in Cordoba.”
Team Peugeot Total has a four-car effort with the latest 3008 DKR Maxi, a wide-track evolution of last year’s V6 diesel and rear-wheel-drive winning machine.
Defending and 13-time Dakar champion Stephane Peterhansel (France), former world rally champions Sebastien Loeb (France) and Carlos Sainz (Spain) along with five-time Dakar motorcycle winner Cyril Despres (France) is an unchanged driving roster for Peugeot.
Toyota Gazoo Racing South Africa prepares the works-entered Toyota Hilux entries. Qatari driver Nasser Al-Attiyah, South African Giniel de Villiers and Dutchman Bernhard Ten Brinke drive the four-wheel-drive Hilux entries which now feature a mid-front engine location for the 5.0-litre Lexus V8 engine and new long travel suspension.
The new X-Raid Mini challenger for 2017 Dakar rally honours is a rear-wheel-drive buggy design with increased suspension travel. Photos / Supplied
The X-Raid team has a split strategy for 2018 which sees its four-wheel-drive Mini Countryman-based car joined by an all-new rear-drive Mini Buggy that offers the advantage of lower weight and increased suspension travel that the Peugeot’s have shown to be a successful formula.
The new Mini Buggies will be driven by Finnish rally star Mikko Hirvonen, US offroad racing ace Bruce Menzies and Saudi rally driver Yazeed Al-Rahji. The X-Raid Mini 4x4 cars are in the hands of former winner Nani Roma (Spain), Argentine driver Orlando Terranova and Poland’s Jakub Przygonski.
Czech rally driver Martin Prokop — who has switched his attention from the WRC to Rally Raid events — will make his second Dakar start in a Ford Ranger developed by his MP-Sports team.
The Moto class sees KTM looking to extend an unbeaten run of Dakar wins date started in 2001. British rider Sam Sunderland scored his first win last year and his Red Bull KTM teammates are Austrian Mathias Walkner and Australia’s 2016 winner Toby Price, who broke his leg during the 2017 event.
Honda and Yamaha are mounting strong challenges to end KTMs dominance. Yamaha’s official team is headed by Adrien van Beveren (France), Argentina’s Franco Caimi and Xavier De Soultrait (France) while Monster Energy Honda runs Joan Barreda Bort (Spain), Paulo Goncalves (Portugal), Michael Metge (France) and US racer Ricky Brabec.
The Truck class giants are headed by Russian Kamaz-Master team led by 2017 winner Eduard Nikolaev and key challengers are IVECO, Tatra and Renault teams. Quad bike racers and a side-by-side UTV class for Polaris, Can-Am and Yamaha machines also compete for Dakar Rally honours.