Метка: Dakar

Dates, route, new features and more revealed

In a presentation on Saturday, it was announced that the 2025 Dakar Rally will kick off on 3 January from Bisha and conclude on the 17th of the same month in Shubaytah, two places that are already familiar to existing competitors.

Rally director David Castera has engineered an event that seeks balance in order to maintain the excitement until the end, but with some key hurdles such as the now-famous 48-Hour Stage that was introduced last year, the marathon special, a mass start on one day and a passage through the gruelling Empty Quarter sand desert towards the end.

But perhaps the most striking change is the difference in the routes between cars/trucks and bikes on certain days, which meant the ASO had to lay out more courses than usual.

Added to that would be a Power Stage of sorts, much like the World Rally Championship does on Sundays at each event. It is an idea that is expected to make its way to the rest of the World Rally-Raid Championship by 2026 in an attempt to bring rallies closer to the public.

What’s new for the 2025 Dakar Rally

Motorsport.com Spain sat down for a chat with Castera in which he explained what’s new for the Dakar Rally.

Although he insisted he wanted to keep the trip through Empty Quarter in the same form, he felt something had to be done to keep the competitors in optimum condition.

«This year we have done different routes for cars, trucks and bikes. So we have the 48-hour stage, which is [run over] two days, so I’m working on four more totally different special stages for the categories, and there are three consequences,» he explained.

«The first thing is that the ones behind, the amateurs, [they] would finish very late at night, because in Saudi Arabia it gets dark very early. If they all start together, because they will all start the same for 300 metres and [then] they will separate their paths, they will come together to refuel and they will come back again for the finish,» he said.

«That way, hardly anyone will go [out] at night. Unless they are very slow or in trouble, they are going to finish the race the same day, and for me it’s another way of racing which is important.

«The second consequence is that the car guys are going to have to navigate a lot more [without the trail left by bikes], the co-drivers are going to have a lot of work to do.

«And the third is safety, especially for the bikes, which won’t mix with the cars and they won’t have the dust, they won’t overtake each other.

«On top of that, we ended up with the Empty Quarter, something I’ve had in mind since we started work.

«Everyone is very happy with the dunes, but then we have to see how to do it, with not very long stages in the middle of the rally, and I’m going to do what nobody thinks, because it’s also true that I like it.

«We will have three days, with stages 10 and 11 with big dunes, and the small stage 12 to finish, with a mass start reminiscent of the old days of the Dakar, when they all started together.

«We are trying something like that, and we are going to do the same as in the WRC with the Power Stage, whoever wins gets more points for the world championship,» he said.

«So, we are going to play a little bit with the last special stage, which is short and is going to end in a bivouac a little bit special, because I like the idea of being close to the desert, which is the DNA of the Dakar, and we are going to do a traditional bivouac, a little bit African-style, with the marathon tent to give a different touch, the spirit of what I like.»

Features of the Dakar Rally 2025

Castera wanted to do something better for each category, so cars/trucks and bikes will have different routes on certain stages, but that’s not all. The Frenchman said he always listens to the other people around him, both competitors and his own team at ASO, and that’s how he came up with the route for 2025.

Therefore, the race will start with a Prologue and a loop in the city of Bisha. For stages 10, 11 and 12, the competitors will head towards the dangerous and unknown Empty Quarter, with special stages that will be over 350 kilometres long, in addition to the 48 Hour special that was so successful in the last edition of the event.

«The idea is to be more or less the same as last year, because I have found a balance that I like, and that the drivers also like. They finish very happy, so I want to continue along that path, and we have worked to maintain that level of difficulty, there is no special stage with less than 350 kilometres, except for the last one, and everything will be complicated», Castera revealed.

On the technical side, there will be some changes, with special emphasis on the T2/stock class, as there is currently very little interest in the category. The ASO is working to get more manufacturers to join Toyota. Castero spoke of Jaguar or Defender as candidates to enter, although he thinking more about 2026 because getting new manufacturers on board «takes time».

The ASO will pay attention to the performance of each car in the Ultimate category, using a Balance of Performance [BoP] system that is very similar to the one used in the World Endurance Championship. However, this will be based only on the power generated by a car through the engine’s torque level. This allows «to be very precise about the power of each car to achieve the balance,» according to Castera.

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Ford signs Carlos Sainz Sr to lead Dakar Rally programme in 2025

Sainz and double event winner Nani Roma will be two of the four drivers to represent Ford in the prestigious Dakar event in Saudi Arabia next year, with its remaining line-up to be announced at a later date.

This would mark the Spanish driver’s fourth stint with the American auto giant, having periodically competed with its range of cars in a World Rally Championship career that lasted almost 20 years.

It was at the wheel of a Ford Sierra RS that he made his WRC debut back in 1987, before joining the factory team for a handful of events the following season.

He returned to Ford as a two-time WRC champion in 1996, scoring three victories over the following two seasons before heading back to Toyota.

Toyota’s withdrawal at the end of 1999 paved the way for a third stint between 2000-02, which yielded another two wins and a best finish of third in the championship.

Sainz has been hired by Ford after he steered Audi to its first victory in Dakar in January, the culmination of a three-year factory programme that was cut short due to what has been described as a lack of spare parts.

With Ford, Sainz will be targeting a fifth Dakar win with as many manufacturers, having scored his previous four triumphs with Volkswagen, Peugeot, Mini and Audi.

«I’m very excited by this new Dakar Rally project, to go back to working with Ford for the fourth time, and to return to M-Sport, to return to Malcolm [Wilson, founder of M-Sport] who I know very well, it’s really great to be back,» he said. 

«My history with Ford goes all the way back to ’87, and I think I was Malcolm’s first driver, his first ever factory driver, back in the day, and I’m very proud of that.

«I’m really excited to be driving the Raptor truck, and to approach this big challenge with a lot of goals. One is to help Ford win the Dakar Rally.»

 Ford Raptor

Ford Raptor

Photo by: Ford Performance

The American auto giant made the announcement on Friday afternoon, where it also revealed that it has begun active testing with the 2025 Ranger Raptor.

It had already planned to build an all-new Dakar challenger for 2025 after making an explanatory outing in this year’s Dakar with a revised version of the NWM-built Ranger, piloted by Roma and South Africa’s Gareth Woolridge.

Ford dropped a teaser of the new Raptor along with the announcement, showing the rear of the vehicle kicking up dust in a desert.

«The scale of our ambitions in off-road racing is unparalleled in Ford’s recent history and nothing is more clear in that ambition than our challenge to take the Ford Raptor to the legendary Dakar rally,» said Mark Rushbrook, global director, Ford Performance Motorsport. 

«Taking on such an enormous challenge requires the best engineers, designers, team members, navigators and drivers, and in Nani Roma and Carlos Sainz Sr, we have two of the most experienced and successful drivers in Dakar history.

«The Ford Raptor is already showing promising signs in testing and having two of the best drivers in the world with us for the ride gives us confidence for the continued development of the truck.» 

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KTM drops two-time Dakar winner Toby Price from factory programme

The 36-year-old said in a social media post on Tuesday that KTM had decided not to renew his contract following the 46th running of Dakar in January.

«KTM has decided to not renew my contract so Dakar 2024 was my last event with them… I do feel like I’m still in my prime and going out there fighting for wins, especially at Dakar so it’s unfortunate to not have that opportunity to do it in 2025,» Price wrote.

«But I’m really appreciative of the support they gave me in my career. We’ve been able to do some great things together like win two Dakars and get a couple podiums, a World Championship and our success in Australia too.»

The news marks the end of a relationship that has stretched to almost 15 years, with KTM having backed the Australian since 2010 when he used to compete in homegrown rally championships.

After further success in Europe and North America on KTM machinery, Price made his Dakar debut in 2015 astride a KTM 450 Rally, scoring a stage win in the tough terrains of Argentina en route to third in the overall standings.

That outing earned him a seat on the Red Bull-backed KTM Factory Team in 2016, when he dominated proceedings to become the first Australian to win the Dakar outright.

A second victory in the world’s toughest rally raid would follow in 2019, despite a wrist injury that he had been carrying since a training event in the run-up to the event.

#2 Red Bull KTM Factory: Toby Price

#2 Red Bull KTM Factory: Toby Price

Photo by: Red Bull Content Pool

It was also the last in KTM’s streak of 19 successive victories in Dakar, with the Austrian manufacturer getting outshone by Honda in 2020 after the event moved to Saudi Arabia.

Despite two podium finishes, Price hasn’t enjoyed as much success in the latest chapter of the marathon in the Middle East, with 2022 marking the last time he scored a stage win. A broken collarbone caused by a crash during the 2021 running of the event didn’t help his cause.

In recent years, Price has shown a strong desire to move more towards four-wheel competition, tackling a series of Baja events as well as competing in the Finke Desert race in Australia — winning three events on the trot in the latter.

However, he parted ways with Mitsubishi at the end of last year, citing a lack of active programmes in Dakar as the reason for their split.

It remains unclear if Price could join a rival manufacturer to KTM and elongate in Dakar bikes career for a few more years, or make an immediate switch to the cars category.

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WRC and Dakar winner Kenjiro Shinozuka dies aged 75

Shinozuka shot to fame by becoming the first Japanese driver to claim outright victories in both the WRC and the gruelling Dakar Rally.

Born in Tokyo, Shinozuka’s greatest success came as a factory Mitsubishi driver. In 1988, he claimed the inaugural Asia-Pacific championship alongside co-driver Fred Gocentas. The pair took the title scoring a solitary rally win in India at the Himalayan Rally, driving a Mitsubishi Galant VR-4.

But it was in 1991 when he and co-driver John Meadows left their mark on the WRC by taking a factory-backed Galant VR-4 to victory in the Ivory Coast round of the WRC to claim one of two WRC wins. On this occasion Shinozuka claimed a first WRC win for a Japanese driver with a margin of more than two hours over local Mitsubishi driver Patrick Tauziac.

Shinozuka outlined his skills in particularly challenging rallies by repeating his Ivory Coast success the following season, this time beating Belgian, Opel driver Bruno Thiry.

This was the last of the Japanese pilot’s WRC triumphs having racked up 88 points from 20 starts in a WRC career that began in 1976 and ended with his last outing in Australia in 1997. All bar one start was behind the wheel of a Mitsubishi in a relationship with the Japanese brand that extended into rally-raid.

Kenjiro Shinozuka, Gilles Picard, Nissan Pick-Up.

Kenjiro Shinozuka, Gilles Picard, Nissan Pick-Up.

Photo by: Sutton Images

Shinozuka was equally successful tackling the notoriously difficult Dakar Rally. A third in 1987 was followed by a runner-up finish 12 months later, finishing behind WRC champion driver Juha Kankkunen.

A further two third-place finishes followed in 1992 and 1995, before claiming an outright victory in 1997, driving a Mitsubishi Pajero, after seeing off Frenchman Jean-Pierre Fontenay. The triumph also was the first for a Japanese driver.

Shinozuka secured podium finishes in 1998 (second) and 2002 (third), before ending his long-time association with Mitsubishi to join the factory Nissan operation for 2003 with Ari Vatanen.

However, that year’s event was marred by a nasty crash involving Shinozuka and co-driver Thierry Delli-Zotti, who were both seriously hurt while attempting to navigate a sand dune. Shinozuka was put into a coma but survived life-threatening injuries and returned to contest the event the following year. His final Dakar start came in 2007 where he finished in 59th position. 

He was inducted into the Japanese Automobile hall of fame in 2022 and last year was part of the WRC safety team at Rally Japan.

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Audi could face €750,000 fine for exiting World Rally-Raid after Dakar

The German manufacturer was due to see out its third and final season in the FIA-sanctioned series as part of its much-touted cross-country programme with the RS Q e-tron hybrid.

However, just a month after scoring a maiden win in the prestigious Dakar marathon in Saudi Arabia in January, Audi announced that it would be shutting down the project with immediate effect, leaving it out of the remaining four events on the W2RC calendar.

But the decision won’t go down without financial consequences, with stewards at the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge penalising the brand for missing the second round of the season as per article 3.4.3 of the FIA Cross-Country Rally Sporting Regulations.

It was noted that Audi had registered as a manufacturer for the 2024 W2RC season and it was ‘harming the image’ of the series by skipping certain events.

As such, the stewards concluded “to impose a fine penalty of 750,000 EUR on the manufacturer TEAM AUDI SPORT of which the amount of 562,500 EUR is applied with suspension of sentence subject to no further similar infringement during the 2024 FIA World Rally-Raid Championship.”

#204 Team Audi Sport Audi RS Q e-tron E2: Carlos Sainz Sr, Lucas Cruz

#204 Team Audi Sport Audi RS Q e-tron E2: Carlos Sainz Sr, Lucas Cruz

Photo by: Audi Communications Motorsport

Given Audi has already made it clear that it doesn’t intend on rejoining the championship later in the year, it is expected that it would have to pay the entire fine to the FIA W2RC series.

When enquired about the fine by Motorsport.com’s sister title Motorsport-Total.com, an Audi spokesman said: «We are appealing and will not comment further on the matter as it is an ongoing procedure.»

Audi had previously described a lack of spare parts as the main reason for bringing its rally-raid programme to a premature end. It claimed that lead times for some parts go as long as two years, and it burned through more components than it had expected during the last two editions of Dakar.

“Audi is ending the rally project as planned after its third participation in the Dakar Rally, and the consideration of a possible participation in the 2024 World Rally Raid Championship has been rejected,” it had said in a statement.

“After extremely high spare parts consumption at the 2023 Dakar, a very intensive test program in 2023 and the damage that occurred, as well as the very tough 2024 Dakar Rally, most of the prototype parts have been used up as a thorough analysis showed. 

“The long lead times in the production of such one-offs are sometimes up to two years due to very few, highly specialized suppliers for Audi’s extremely complex prototype. 

“This means that the framework conditions are not in place within which Audi could ensure successful participation in the World Rally Raid Championship during an entire season.”

Audi won the 2024 Dakar event with Carlos Sainz Sr driving the latest iteration of the RS Q e-tron, which utilised the powertrain technology it developed in Formula E and the DTM.

With its rally programme coming to a close, Audi will not have a factory involvement in motorsport until it joins the Formula 1 grid in 2026 as part of its takeover of Sauber.

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