Also this year there is a Classic Dakar that can count on a lot of acclaim. They ride a shorter and different course than the ordinary Dakarist. Among the many participants, there are many Belgians. Among them also Koen Wauters, who will start again for the first time since 2012. A total of 38 Belgians will start.
In the motorcycle category, Kevin Benavides (KTM) will start with number 1. The Argentinian won last year with his Honda, breaking KTM’s hegemony which had won the motorcycle category for 18 consecutive years. KTM has now offered the Argentine a contract. Benavides teams up with Sunderland and Sanders. Honda has strong drivers in the house with Brabec and Quintanilla.
In the cars, Stéphane Peterhansel is looking for his 15th overall victory. He does so at the wheel of an Audi that is making its debut. Audi has a second ex-winner in the ranks with Carlos Sainz. It remains to be seen whether the brand will be ready to be successful right away on their debut. Toyota has developed a new car that should make Al-Attiyah more able to try to counter the superiority of the MINIs. At MINI, which has to do without Sainz and Peterhansel, the Pole and ex-world rally raid champion Jakub Przygonski will be assigned the lead. And then there’s Prodive, which disappointed last year. It immediately marked the end of the collaboration between Sébastien Loeb and his loyal co-pilot Daniel Elena. Loeb gets a Belgian by his side with Fabian Lurquin.
The SSV’s always provide a spectacle. In recent years, the OT3’s of the Belgian Overdrive Racing have been successful. Guillaume de Mévius and Tom Colsoul participate in the Dakar with such an OT3. After previous successful participations in the cars and trucks, Colsoul is now participating with an SSV.
With regard to the trucks, we are looking forward to the duel between the Russian KAMAZ trucks on the one hand and the Dutch De Rooy Iveco’s on the other. Mammoet Racing with Peter Willemsen and Riwald Dakar with Jan Van der Vaet are assigned the role of outsider.
The Dakar Classic is in its second edition. The participants spend the night in the same bivouac as the other riders, but in addition to a different and shorter course, they also ride with a different approach. With them, the emphasis is on regularity and navigation, not on fastest times.
38 Belgians participate
The 44th Dakar can count on a lot of Belgian interest. Spread over all categories, 38 Belgians participate. It is the largest Belgian delegation since 2007 when 45 Belgians took part. At the beginning of this year, 11 Belgians started. The absolute low point was 2020 when only 5 Belgians took part.
It took several years, but the Belgians found their way back to the Dakar. The imaginative landscapes in Saudi Arabia will undoubtedly play a role in this. For the first time since 2013, 4 Belgian motards will start again. Last year Walter Roelants (Husqvarna) was the only one. He reached the finish as the oldest Belgian motorcyclist. Early next year he will be joined by Dakar debutants Jérôme Martiny (Husqvarna) and Mathieu Liebaert (KTM). After an absence of several years, Mikael Despontin (KTM) is rejoining.
Father and son Imschoot (Optimus) again participate in the cars, as does Alexandre Leroy (Century). Fabian Lurquin can enter the desert as an outsider for the overall victory. He takes a seat next to nine-time World Rally Champion Sébastien Loeb (Prodrive).
The SSVs have become one of the most popular categories. With Guillaume de Mévius and Tom Colsoul (OT3) we also have an outsider for the overall victory there. Their car is being prepared by the Belgian Overdrive Racing. François Beguin reads the notes with Axel Alletru. Charly Gotlib, at the start for the 33rd time, does the same with Aljafla Khalid (Toyota). After several years of absence, Serge Bruynkens is back again. He shares a Can-Am with the Dutchman Jan De Wit.
Among the trucks, there are two contenders on the podium. Peter Willemsen is participating again for the first time in years. At his 20th participation, he forms a team with Maarten Van Den Brink and Bernhard Der Children (Iveco). We find Jan Van der Vaet again alongside the Dutchmen Pascal De Baar and Stefan Slootjens. West Fleming Dave Ingels (MAN) travels to Saudi Arabia for the first time. Dave Berghmans and Tom Geuens (Iveco) will again drive an assistance truck from Overdrive Racing and Toyota Gazoo this year. They provide quick assistance on the slopes. Didier Monseu, Emmanuel Eggermont, Edouard Fraipont (MAN) and Igor Bouwens and Ulrich Boerboom (Iveco) will also be there early next year.
Finally, there is a large delegation of Belgians at the Dakar Classic. Koen Wauters will be at the start of the Dakar for the first time since 2012. He forms a team with Pascal Feryn. Both will take turns behind the wheel. Another notable participation is that of and son Claeys. Eric Claeys, former strong man of VTM, drives a Toyota. Tom De Leeuw, Cedric Feryn and Bjorn Burgelman (Mercedes) are the only Belgian truck in the Classic Participants.