Dacia will use the Dakar to test new powertrains and ‘outdoor functionality’
Dacia to race fearsome 4x4s with synthetic fuels in World Rally-Raid Championship
Dacia has announced that it will compete in the World Rally-Raid Championship (W2RC) – and therefore the famed Dakar rally – from 2025.
It will do so in a prototype 4×4 co-developed with British specialist Prodrive, maker of the Hunter T1+ that finished second in the 2023 running of the Dakar. Dacia has not said how closely related its racer will be to its road cars, but by 2025 it will have a production version of the Bigster SUV and a new version of the Duster on sale.
Prodrive is perhaps best known for its involvement in the World Rally Championship, having run the Subaru World Rally Team between 1990 and 2008 and taking three drivers’ and manufacturers’ titles during that period.
Dacia said its involvement in the W2RC will allow it to test new ideas for ‘outdoor functionality’ – as go-anywhere ‘lifestyle’ branding becomes an increasingly core component of the brand – and more environmentally friendly powertrains.
“Not only is this a test of Dacia’s true robustness, but it is also a showing of our commitment to low-carbon mobility,” said the firm’s CEO Denis le Vot.
Initially, the manufacturer will run its prototype racers on synthetic fuels supplied by Aramco, made by blending renewable hydrogen with captured carbon dioxide. The Saudi Arabian firm recently announced it would invest in Renault-Geely’s new combustion-engine joint venture codenamed Horse, seeking to extend the project to hydrogen and synthetic fuel technologies.
Sébastien Loeb and Cristina Gutiérrez Herrero will take the helm of the Dacia 4x4s, with testing set to begin at next year’s Rally of Morocco.
Loeb is widely lauded as history’s greatest rally driver, having won nine consecutive WRC drivers’ titles between 2004 and 2012. He has participated in the Dakar since 2016 and achieved podium finishes in 2017, 2019, 2022 and 2023. A win continues to elude the Frenchman.
Gutiérrez Herrero has entered seven Dakar rallies (between 2017 and 2023), and in 2021 she became the first woman to win a stage at the event since Jutta Kleinschmidt in 2005. As well as competing in the Dakar, she also drives for the Lewis Hamilton-backed X44 Vida Carbon Racing team in Extreme E, alongside Loeb. The duo won the off-road championship last year with a series of podium finishes as well as a win at the Copper X-Prix in Chile.
Dacia’s announcement comes shortly after Ford said it would also enter the rally, although the Blue Oval is running on a faster timeline – entering next year’s event and targeting a win in 2025.
It will run a version of the Ranger pick-up modified by M-Sport and Neil Woolridge Motorsport to compete in the top-rung T1+ category.
This year’s Dakar winner was Toyota Gazoo Racing, whose Hilux T1+ finished the event in 45 hours, three minutes and 15 seconds at the hands of Nasser Al-Attiyah and co-driver Mathieu Baumel.