Mr Dakar: we have good potential

Finally, it looks like we’re in for a real race at this year’s Dakar – with the very real potential for the first non-Mini win since 2011.Peugeot Sport’s challenge fell flat with the first incarnation of the 2008 DKR 12 months ago, but this year’s car is bigger, wider and faster.

Sainz Peugeot

Certainly, the French squad’s 11-time Dakar winner Stephane Peterhansel is in a more positive mood tie than he was this time last year.

Peterhansel said: “There was already a nice atmosphere in the team last year, but it’s even more cohesive this year. Everyone knows that we have good potential and a great team. Of course, we’re still all a bit nervous at the moment but the feeling is a lot better than it was at this time last year, when we had to cancel shakedown due to the weather conditions.”

Peterhansel and the quartet of 2008 DKR’s emerged from the shakedown test in good shape.

“The final shakedown session enabled us to feel confident with the car,” said Peterhansel, “so we’ll start the rally feeling a bit more serene even though the rally route is not the one that we were originally expecting.”

The smart money is on the X-Raid Minis for the first few days of competition in South America – with two-time winner Nasser Al-Attiyah ready to make the most of his World Rally Championship experience on roads more similar to Rally Argentina than Dakar.

The four-wheel drive Mini will certainly cope with the more technical Argentinian sections better than the rear-drive Peugeot. It’s only once the competition moves into Bolivia that the sand-racers from Velizy can really start to stretch their legs.

And, if it’s WRC pedigree you’re after. Look no further than Peugeot.

Two-time world champion and one-time Dakar winner Carlos Sainz said: “We’re all just waiting for the first real day of competition. We have taken on board all the lessons we learned last time and the car is much better. This guarantees nothing in terms of a result, but it goes to show that we are better prepared. Reliability is crucial on the Dakar, so we will see now where we are with that. Testing has gone well but we have to be careful, particularly because the early part of the route is not ideally suited to a two-wheel drive car such as our 2008 DKR.”

And then there’s Sebastien Loeb. He needs no introduction. But this is still is his Dakar.

“As it’s my first Dakar, I obviously can’t say that I’m feeling particularly confident,” he said. “I’m very well aware that both myself and Daniel [Elena, co-driver] are starting with zero experience of this event. It’s not going to be easy, but we’re here above all to learn. And I’m trying not to put too much pressure on myself because of that.

“We’re just going to take everything as it comes without trying to force things, and we’ll see how that works out for us. But it’s really fun to do something brand new to me like this. You start from scratch again. I’ve got a nice feeling with the car and I’m eager to find out what it’s going to be like doing stages that are 500 kilometres long and days where you drive for 1000 kilometres, in the heat and everything that comes with it. I can’t wait to discover all of that for myself now.”

The WRC stars have really come out to play at this year’s Dakar with Mikko Hirvonen and Martin Prokop also taking on the world’s toughest rally for the first time.

It’s scrutineering tomorrow (Friday January 1) then the Buenos Aires ceremonial start and prologue stage (11km) on Saturday to decide the running order. The first stage proper starts out of Rosario on Sunday morning. That first day contains 662km, 258 of which will be competitive.

Source: Maxrally.com