The 2024 Dakar Rally will be one of the biggest challenges that Prodrive has ever undertaken over its 40 years at the pinnacle of international competition as seven Prodrive Hunter cars take the start of the epic adventure in Saudi Arabia in January 2024. Through the rough stages in the north to the enormous dunes of the Empty Quarter in the south, the Dakar will test all competitors entered into the new ‘Ultimate’ class for this 46th edition.
The 7,891km of Dakar 2024 looks set to be one of the longest and hardest in the ‘third chapter’ of the Dakar over a distance similar to driving from the top of the UK to Dubai, or from New York to Las Vegas and back again.
Prodrive is running two of the most well-known names in motorsport with Sébastien Loeb and Nasser Al-Attiyah. Loeb starts his fourth year with the Banbury based squad, while Al-Attiyah joins Prodrive for his first big Rally Raid event following his drive in the Hunter during two smaller Bajas in November. Once back in the familiar sand of the UAE, Al-Attiyah sped through to comfortably win the Dubai International Baja against familiar competition to further boost his confidence behind the wheel of his new Hunter challenger and provide essential test mileage ahead of the Dakar next month.
Loeb maintained impressive pace in the BRX Team Prodrive Hunter throughout the 2023 World Rally Raid Championship, leading the title chase to the halfway point only for bad luck to creep in and deny him the crown. But with co-driver Fabian Lurquin they’re set on turning their two second places from the past two Dakar’s up on to a step higher. Loeb/Lurquin set the pace on Dakar 2023 with seven wins from 14 stages, including a record breaking six won consecutively. In fact, the Prodrive Hunter won a total of nine out of the 14 stages with Guerlain Chicherit twice victorious in his brown/orange liveried entry.
Al-Attiyah has his sights set on a sixth Dakar victory (with a fourth different manufacturer) while his tally of 47 Dakar stage wins is only three behind the outright record held by Ari Vatanen from the early 1990s. One of the strongest pairings in off-road motorsport is due to his success with co-driver Mathieu Baumel who joins the Qatari in the Hunter entered in to the Rally Raid competition as ‘Nasser Racing’ for 2024.
The Brazilian X Rally Team tackle the Dakar with two Prodrive Hunters after a year of them familiarising themselves with the agility and prowess of the cars in Mexico, Brazil and Morocco, where Cristian and Marcos Baumgart made the Top Three on stages during their regular Top 10 placings come the final results at these events. One of the most testing rigours their cars went through this year was at the Sertoes Rally in Brazil, where searing heat, tight tracks and mud demanded strength and resilience from the entire X Rally Team and served them well as preparation for the Saudi adventure next month.
Another demanding rally for which Prodrive prepared a Hunter was the 2023 Taklamakan Rally in China and the YunXiang China Team. Across 12 days and 4,300 kilometres, driver Sun Ping took the car through some of the world’s toughest canyons, river beds and fesh-fesh of the Gobi desert. The YunXiang team now brings three new Prodrive Hunters to Dakar 2024 with Liu Feilong/Yicheng Wang, Sun Ping/Liao Min and Zi Rong/Pan Hong Yu all looking to be at the forefront of the ever-growing push from the Far East to conquer Dakar.
With 44 personnel from Prodrive serving the Bahrain Raid Xtreme and Nasser Racing cars, plus 14 working across the X Rally and YunXiang Hunters, it is one of the biggest motorsport teams ever assembled by Prodrive. This includes the two T5 race trucks that are entered into the rally to carry spares should they be needed mid-stage, and which will be called upon to service the Hunters during the new ’48-hour Chrono’ stage when only the drivers competing in the rally can work on the cars.
A total of 17 Prodrive vehicles passed through scrutineering at Barcelona docks (Spain) on 2 December before being loaded on to a ship that will take competitors, service trucks, motor homes and press cars to the Saudi port of Yanbu on the shores of the Red Sea before the 360km drive to the start of the 2024 Dakar Rally at AlUla on 5 January.
Sébastien Loeb, Bahrain Raid Xtreme:
“We’ve had some good results together with Prodrive, but for me the Dakar is my target. To make the best over the big stages, Fabian and I will work hand in hand to have the speed, the correct navigation and avoid mechanical problems. However, the Dakar always has some ‘hidden things’ at any time so we’ll piece these together over the huge adventure that this rally always is. I’m looking forward to it.”
Nasser Al-Attiyah, Nasser Racing:
“When I drove the Prodrive Hunter for the first time I was very happy how the car behaved in high and at low speed, so I immediately felt familiar with behind the wheel. Of course, Dakar is a target for another win for us in a different car, and hopefully we will get closer to Stephane Peterhansel’s Dakar win record, We’ve prepared well with the team and believe we have a strong chance as we take the start in AlUla.”
David Richards, Prodrive Chairman said:
“If I turn the clock back and think to when we started this programme with Bahrain and the BRX Team and remember how much work has gone into the car and every event since, I have to say I’m very proud of what we have achieved and to have the seven Prodrive Hunters entered in Dakar 2024.
Having Seb and Nasser together is a dream team for Prodrive as they have the experience, the speed, the co-drivers and the car to push right from the very first stage. Dakar represents the pinnacle of world motorsport with incredibly arduous stages, especially with the addition of the ‘48-hour Chrono’ stage this year, and it’s a challenge we are very much looking forward to.”
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Prodrive is one of the world’s largest and most successful motorsport and technology businesses. Over 500 staff are employed across its Banbury headquarters and composites manufacturing facility in Milton Keynes. While the company is perhaps best known for motorsport, today it is just one part of an organisation that in the last decade has diversified to become a technology business working in a range of sectors and providing a range of services. Within the Prodrive Group, there are four distinct but interconnected business areas: Motorsport, operating race and rally programmes for vehicle manufacturers and global brands; Advanced Technology, providing innovative technology for the automotive, aerospace, defence, and marine sectors; Composites, developing lightweight composite components for the automotive, aerospace and marine sectors; and Brand& developing bespoke clothing and accessories for leading brands.