The legendary Dakar Rally is back. Almost a year has passed since the Russian KAMAZ-master crew managed by Dmitry Sotnikov won first place in the truck category and heard the anthem of the Russian Federation at the award ceremony in Saudi Arabia.
A lot has changed over the past period of time: in 2022 the first ever World Rally-Raid Championship will take place and the Dakar will become its first stage, presentation of hybrid vehicles has increased, and KAMAZ-master is putting two new K5 trucks into the race. The future is coming today.
The truck classification is justly considered one of the most spectacular in the Dakar – multi-ton vehicles overcome hundreds of kilometers of off-road, reaching a speed of 140 kmh. And with each rally-marathon edition, the racing pace becomes higher – a real challenge for the crew members, whose task is to reach the finish line with a high result. The Dakar 2022 attracted attention of 56 crews (8 pilots of which are rookies), which is 12 more than in January 2021.
KAMAZ-master team will perform on 4 sports trucks in the race. Two of them are familiar to fans of KAMAZ-43509 and the other two are new KAMAZ-435091 of the K5 family. Crews of the reigning Dakar champion Dmitry Sotnikov and the five-time winner of the rally-marathon Eduard Nikolaev will represent Russia in the international competition on the new KAMAZ trucks of the K5 family. Crews of Anton Shibalov and Andrey Karginov will take part in the race on trucks of the previous model with technical improvements, implemented during 2021, which make the traditional KAMAZ a serious rival to the sports vehicles of the leading foreign teams in the Dakar truck category.
Crews of KAMAZ-master team – contestants of the Dakar-2022
No. 500. Driver Dmitry Sotnikov – co-driver Ruslan Akhmadeev – mechanic Ilgiz Akhmetzianov.
No. 501. Driver Anton Shibalov – co-driver Dmitrii Nikitin – mechanic Ivan Tatarinov.
No. 505. Driver Eduard Nikolaev – co-driver Evgenii Iakovlev – mechanic Vladimir Rybakov.
No. 509. Driver Andrey Karginov – co-driver Andrey Mokeev – mechanic Ivan Malkov.
Representatives of Naberezhnye Chelny are traditionally considered one of the main favorites of the Dakar. The highest places are claimed by each of the four crews of the Russian team. And this is proved by 18 gold trophies won by the team over the years of participation in the race, which have taken a worthy place in the KAMAZ-master museum. But, as always, the strongest pilots of the planet are ready to challenge the KAMAZ members.
Who should you keep a close eye on over the next two weeks? Let’s get acquainted.
A year ago the Czech Martin Macik showed the best result in his career – the fourth position in the general classification. And in the Dakar 2022, the 32-year-old pilot will certainly want to take at least a step forward. To do this, he and his team built two trucks for their clients (both will start at the Dakar and will insure the leader) and a completely new truck for themselves, but at the very last moment the choice was made for the IVECO bonnet truck named Karel, tested by past rally marathons.
“On the one hand, I wanted to get behind the wheel of a new truck, but Karel and I went through a lot – two successful Dakars, so I know the truck very well. Just now I trust it more,” – said Macik with a smile about his decision to go to Saudi Arabia in an old truck. The second pilot in the BIG SHOCK RACING team (yes, the private team has expanded to three crews, which should help in achieving the result) is another experienced Czech representative Martin Soltis (48 years old), who entered the top 10 on TATRA in 2021. And it is Soltis who will sit behind the wheel of the novelty: a longer wheelbase (+20 cm), improved suspension and a modified weight distribution (now spare tires are stored in the middle, like one large fuel tank). These changes have resulted in greater stability and better steering.
After skipping the Dakar 2021, the team of Gerard de Rooy, a two-time winner of the Golden Bedouin, returns to the race. Thereat, the 41-year-old Dutchman will not sit behind the wheel himself again – in Saudi Arabia he will act as a manager. Three vehicles have been announced for the Petronas Team De Rooy Iveco, one more truck driven by Martin van den Brink will represent Mammoet Team De Rooy Iveco.
Health problems have closed the door for the 2007 Dakar winner Hans Stacey on the rally marathon, but Mitchell van den Brink is determined to make it to the finish line for the second time in his career. It is also worth waiting for surprises from Janus van Kasteren, who became sixth in 2020.
The Japanese Hino Team Sugawara will toe the starting line of the race as well. The son of the legendary Yoshimasa Sugawara Teruhito has not missed a single Dakar since 1999 and will be driving a bonnet truck equipped with a new power-unit. The inline diesel six-cylinder engine with a volume of 8.9 liters produces 789 hp and is completed by an electric motor with a capacity of 276 “horses“. Together with them there is new six-speed automatic transmission with differential locks on each axle. The pioneer in hybrid engines in the truck category 2020 became the Dutchman Gert Huzink (Riwald Dakar Team) – the Dakar 2022 will be the third in a row for his advanced Renault.
The Dakar strives for a greener future, when contestants start driving to the start in cars powered by alternative fuels. Revolutionary for rally-raids will be introduction of H2 Racing Truck from the French Gaussin team. In Saudi Arabia the novelty will make its first test drive on the part of the legendary marathon route. It should be noted that KAMAZ is also looking ahead today: the plant has a program to create, first a hybrid, and then a hydrogen sports truck, planned for 5 years.
The three-time Dakar winner in the quad category, the Chilean Ignacio Casale, has applied on heavy vehicles for the second year in a row. As in the previous year, the South American will drive the Czech Tatra, in which he finished ninth. The Tatra Buggyra Racing truck has received an automatic transmission and extra horsepower under the hood. The task at Dakar 2022 is ambitious – a victory in one or two stages and a place in the final top five. But the other driver of the team, the youngest French champion in circuit racing in trucks, Teo Calvet, first received an arm injury, and then passed a positive test for coronavirus, and will miss the race.
The Czech Ales Loprais had to face financial difficulties – instead of two trucks, only one will perform on the Arabian Peninsula. And all funds of the private family team were invested in improving the Praga V4S truck, which became the fifth in the Dakar 2021: the power of the new engine increased to 1000 hp, the maximum torque – to 4400 Nm, the automatic transmission received new software, and the cooling system has been improved.
There also was negative news about the absence of the Belarusian MAZ-SPORTauto team. The organizers of the Dakar did not allow Siarhei Viazovich and the company to participate in the race due to the sanctions against the Minsk Automobile Plant.
The 44th Dakar starts in Ha’il on January 2 and ends in Jeddah on January 14, the rest day is scheduled in Riyadh for January 8. The starting podium and the race prologue will take place on the first day of the new year. The total length of 12 stages will be almost 8 400 kilometers, about 4 300 kilometers of which are special stages.