March 26, 2023

The Dakar Rally is among the most gruelling motorsport occasions on the planet, and tends to function some fairly epic automobiles. Right here’s the three most important contenders vying for victory in 2023.

Pictures: Toyota, Audi Sport, Amaury Sport Organisation (A.S.O)

Admittedly, off-road builds aren’t normally our factor right here at Quick Automobile, however within the case of the Dakar Rally, the ‘automobiles’ concerned – if we will even name them that – are just too enjoyable to show a blind eye to.

Followers of the well-known cross-country race will know that drivers and riders can enter all kinds of automobiles into the Dakar Rally’s multitude of various lessons. Bikes, buggies, quads – even full-size vans! Nonetheless, the celebrities of the present are usually the automobiles. These typically contain one of the best styling, greatest tech and greatest drivers, and 2023 is not any totally different…

Toyota GR DKR Hilux T1+

Dakar Rally Pedigree

When you broaden your motorsport horizons past the closed paddock of F1, you’ll shortly start to grasp that Toyota are on a little bit of a job.

Within the World Endurance Championship, the Japanese marque secured a 1-2 end within the factors standings final yr (albeit with minimal competitors), following a season that included outright victory at Le Mans with their GR010 Hypercar. Toyota’s 2022 success weren’t simply restricted to tarmac although, both. With its GR Yaris-based Rally1 automotive, Toyota swept up the World Rally Championship honours too. So, provided that run of kind, it shouldn’t shock you to listen to that Toyota additionally enter this yr’s Dakar occasion because the reigning champions.

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Again in January 2022, it was Qatari driver Nasser Al-Attiyah who claimed victory, and he’s returned to fly the flag for Toyota as soon as extra with a brand new and improved experience.

Not Your Common Hilux

Upon first look, it’s straightforward to inform that that is no bizarre Toyota Hilux. In truth, apart from the silhouette, there’s little that this wild pick-up shares with its roadgoing namesake. The engine, as an example, is predicated on considered one of Toyota’s manufacturing blocks – however not one that you just’ll discover within the humble Hilux. As an alternative, this Dakar particular runs a modified model of the V35A twin-turbo petrol V6, discovered within the Land Cruiser SUV. In inventory kind, the V35A outputs 410PS, however for the Dakar, sporting rules imply that Toyota has needed to detune it to round 360PS. Nonetheless, that’s loads to be enjoying with, particularly with 457lb ft of torque on faucet.

Through the winter low season, the Hilux has undergone various small evolutions. The differential, for instance, is harder than earlier than. As for the bolstered suspension, the pick-up’s double wishbone set-up has a powerful 350mm of journey constructed into it, whereas the six-speed sequential gearbox has additionally had its shifting traits tweaked.

All in all, this confirmed bundle simply appears to be getting higher, so it wouldn’t be a shock to see Al-Attiyah on the highest step of the rostrum as soon as once more.

The spaceship-like Audi RS Q e-tron.

Audi RS Q e-tron E2

Might an Electrical Automobile Win the Dakar Rally?

Toyota received’t have all of it their very own method although. This yr, Audi Sport are arguably one of the best positioned to problem them for the Dakar crown, regardless of choosing a really totally different form of car.

Whereas a standard petrol V6 powers Toyota’s Hilux, the Audi’s RS Q e-tron has been designed to tackle the desert dunes with battery energy alone… nearly (extra on that in a second). Because of this, what we have now is a full-on tech struggle on the high of the Dakar tree.

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So, how precisely does this SUV-spaceship lovechild work? Nicely, it’s propelled alongside by two Components E-sourced electrical motors, nonetheless, it’s not precisely straightforward to discover a charging station in the midst of the desert. So, to get round that challenge, the RS Q e-tron costs itself. Seems like wizardry, proper? The form of factor that would revolutionise electrical transportation for the higher. Nicely, not fairly.

Audi’s Sneaky Self Charging System

See, tucked away at the back of this neatly packaged electrical car is a 2.0-litre TFSI DTM petrol engine. Nope, we’re not kidding. It’s value mentioning although that the thoroughbred four-cylinder by no means truly strikes the automotive alongside. As an alternative, it’s merely there to energy an onboard generator, which then costs the electrical propulsion motors. Certain, there’s loads of scope to poke enjoyable at an answer like this, however no matter the way you view it, you’ve not less than bought to confess that it’s a reasonably cool little bit of equipment.

What’s extra, the E2 iteration of the RS Q e-tron guarantees to be 15% extra aerodynamic and ‘a number of dozen kilograms lighter’ than the unique idea. So, whereas the FIA received’t permit any high velocity good points, that ought to not less than imply that these electrical motors are underneath a bit much less pressure over the course of the rally.

Former world rally champion (and father of Ferrari’s Spanish F1 driver) Carlos Sainz Snr might be main Audi’s assault on the Dakar this yr, accompanied by veteran Dakar champ Stéphane Peterhansel and former DTM ace Mattias Ekström.


Prodrive are taking on the Dakar Rally again with the Hunter T1+

Prodrive Hunter T1+

Up in opposition to the may of Toyota and Audi, it’d be straightforward to imagine {that a} small firm like Prodrive may an underdog. Nonetheless, let’s not overlook who Prodrive are. Certain, it might be a small firm tucked away within the British midlands, however Prodrive was the driving pressure behind Subaru’s WRC dynasty. With regards to off-road racing, these guys know what they’re doing.

This time although, they aren’t working underneath the guise of one other producer. As an alternative, the Prodrive Hunter is a self-titled album, designed to show precisely what Prodrive stands for. It’s fairly an attractive-looking factor too. Certain the entrance finish received’t be everybody’s cup of tea, however we’re a fan of its high-riding coupe-esque proportions. And, perhaps it’s simply us, however the Hunter’s tail lamps appear quite paying homage to some present Jaguar fashions.

Beneath its brawny exterior, the Prodrive Hunter’s underpinnings largely replicate these of the Toyota Hilux talked about above, given the FIA governing physique’s strict guidelines and rules. However, the 2 designs are very a lot every marque’s personal ideas and constructs. Plus, whereas the Hunter additionally makes use of a 3.5-litre twin-turbo V6, the one you’ll discover in its engine bay is a modified Ford Ecoboost motor.

On paper then, the Prodrive bundle is a formidable one, particularly whenever you throw Sébastien Loeb – 9x WRC champion – into the combination as effectively.

Finally, what we’re saying is that, for the primary time in a short while, the distinguished Dakar rally has some severe competitors inside its premier class. So, if you end up with a spare couple of minutes over the subsequent week or two, take a look at the highlights of this yr’s occasion over on the official Dakar YouTube channel.