The Dakar Rally is on the move this year, its fifth year based in Saudi Arabia. It’s also the fifth year of the new Dakar Classic class, where vintage vehicles harken back to rally trucks of the 1980s and 1990s. This year, five Land Rovers are running in the Classic class, from race-prepped vehicles to a Camel Trophy-veteran Discovery.
Dakar brought the Classic class into the race in 2021, bringing the race back to its roots as the primary race classes have drifted towards more and more custom race-prepped vehicles. The Classic class is designed for vehicles built before 2000, or new vehicles built to pre-2000 specification. It's brought back a lot of icons of the race in the 1980s and 1990s, from Toyota to Isuzu to Mitsubishi. (Fun fact: the winningest Dakar vehicle ever is the Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero.) The first Dakar Rally in 1979 was won by Frenchman Alain Génestier, in his personal Range Rover Classic, based on his knowledge of exploring West Africa for work. Throughout the 1980s vehicles were more lightly prepared than they are today.
This year’s five Land Rover-based teams bring a range of experience to Dakar, and involve classic examples of all three major model lines. Here's a roundup of the teams and their vehicles.
Team 729: TEAM CAPÔSUD, 1986 2-Door Range Rover Classic, Lionel Guy/Johnny Mauduit
Lionel Guy is a Land Rover fan who has been fixing them for 26 years. He runs off-road tours in Morocco, including a business that rents Land Rovers. He took place in his first rally raid in Tunisia in 1998, and immediately Dakar became his dream. He obtained the Range Rover immediately and never parted with it, the vehicle being a veteran of the 1991 rally (as well as others in Pharaons, Atlas, Tunisia, Dubai, Bajas, and Spain) -- but not a Dakar finisher. He raced Dakar in 2005 in a Defender 110 but didn't finish himself, either. With the whole thing having an air of unfinished business, he ran the 2022 event with the Classic and finished 44th. Mauduit, born and raised in the suburbs of Paris, is also a Land Rover fan who took up rally raiding as his pandemic hobby.
Team 735: RSO, 1987 2-Door Range Rover Classic, Herve Solandt/Brice Laborie-Brondino
Herve Solandt participated in his first Dakar rally in 1985, age 22 driving a Toyota pickup. Right afterwards, he began a career, and never again got the opportunity to take enough time off to do the race again. He dreamed of it constantly, and after retirement, finally made a go for it for 2024. The 1987 Range Rover once belonged to rally legend Raoul Raymondis, and Solandt restored it with his close friend Philippe, whom he planned to race with. Philippe's heart problems meant he had to pull out, and his son Brice replaced him. They are friends with Guy and Mauduit and the two Rangies will bring a 1980s air to the rally grid.
Team 744: ALLISPORT, 1985 Land Rover Ninety, Andrew Graham/Gavin Neate
The Allisport team is sponsored by the Land Rover racing parts manufacturer. The vehicle has been a race vehicle since 1990, and Andrew bought it in 2009. It's been swapped from its original Rover V8 to a Td5 diesel and has been used in all sorts of rallies and comp safaris. This is its first Dakar, and it's going to act as a test bed for Allisport's products in the grueling Dakar torture test. This is their first regularity rally, so after years of speed-focused racing, they're open to a new challenge.
Team 752: CHANCELLOR TEAM NEW ZEALAND, 1997 ex-Camel Trophy Discovery 1, Georges Garcia/Francois Beziac
Perhaps the coolest team in this year's Dakar for the Rover nerds, Chancellor Team New Zealand is running a legitimate Camel Trophy Discovery 1, a veteran of the 1997 Mongolia event. It's been owned by Garcia since 2002, and it's done a few raids in Corsica, but nothing at the scale of Dakar. Garcia himself participated in several iterations of the Raid Gauloise and was a finalist in the French team selections for Camel 1997. To him, bringing the Camel truck to Dakar with his friend Beziac, whom he met on the Raid Gauloise, is the combination of the three great motoring events of the 1990s. Beziac is also a citizen of New Zealand, so the team name is a tongue-in-cheek tribute to his second home. Translated from his original French statement, Garcia said "The Dakar and the Camel looked at each other like earthenware dogs at the time. For some, others were furious people who drove straight at full speed, and for others, we were criticized for tying knots, for our slowness. It is the meeting of these two visions of the adventure of the time that we wish to stage, it’s a wink."
Team 764: BOLIDES RACING, Defender 110, Maxence Gublin/Anthony Sousa
Gublin and Sousa have raced together on the track before, but never off-road. Their Defender 110, though, is no stranger to Dakar, having raced in the 1991, 1992, and 2005 events on the original African route. However, it never finished. They are bringing it back to its 1992 era, and have done research on the vehicle's history, including trying to find the race history of its original driver, Jacques Terrien. They don't have off-road 4x4racing experience, though Sousa has bike and quad experience and Gublin has driven Jeeps in Moab. They did a test trip to Morocco and loved the experience enough to get them feeling ready for Saudi. The event will be baptism by fire for both of them, but they're determined to get the truck across the Dakar finish line for the first time.
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