Coronel Dakar Team with ‘The Desert Lion’ to 2023 Dakar Rally

With a farewell party in front of a huge audience at Coronel Adventure Indoor Climbing Park in Huizen in The Netherlands, the next Dakar adventure officially got underway for the Coronel Dakar Team. From Huizen, ‘The Desert Lion’, the car with which the two Dutch brothers will take the start of the Dakar Rally on 31st December, will be driven to Circuit Paul Ricard in Le Castellet in the south of France from where the transport to Saudi Arabia for the rally is to leave this week. After an intense preparation including some test rally events, Tim and Tom Coronel are looking forward to the 2023 Dakar Rally. However, this time, they aren’t alone as the Coronel Dakar Team will be running a second car for Michel Kremer/Thomas de Bois in the 2023 edition of the event.

The most striking element of ‘The Desert Lion’ is a new livery compared to the previous edition of the Dakar Rally. The new colour scheme is mainly the result of a larger involvement by LKQ, a major manufacturer of car parts and accessories, as a partner of the project, having a more visible presence on the car. « LKQ was already on board for the previous event, but is expanding its activities, » Tim Coronel explains. « It is great to have such a large and globally known company involved as a partner for our project. »

Underneath, some improvements have been made on the car, too. « We are always thinking about what we can still change and improve, that is an ongoing process, but highly enjoyable, too, » Tim Coronel says. « This year’s rally already showed that the basis of the car is good and that there is a lot of potential. We ran as high as 16th overall, but eventually, we had to give up due to my back injury. I have been working very hard on that all year, the doctor says that I am entirely new again and even better than ever, so I am curious! »

For the fourth running of the Dakar Rally in Saudi Arabia, the organisers have opted for a different approach: instead of a loop race, the rally now runs from coast to coast, from the Sea Camp, an enormous bivouac some 300 kilometres north of Jeddah on the Red Sea coast where the start will be held on 31st December, to Damman on the Gulf coast, where the rally ends on 15th January. The organisers call it the ‘Desert Diagonal’. The number of daily stages has increased from twelve to 14 with over 5,000 kilometres run on time, making it the longest rally since 2014.

The ‘Rub al Khali’, or ‘Empty Quarter’ in English, the desert of 650,000 square kilometres covering most of the southern part of the Arabian Peninsula is playing a major role in the route of the upcoming Dakar Rally. « In the past years, Saudi Arabia has surprised me with the beauty of its nature every time, » Tim Coronel says. « All the elements are there: very nice canyons, beautiful green and vast, rough parts. In the ‘Empty Quarter’, there are many soft dunes that are really huge. Three years ago, we rolled our car there, the dunes are really tricky, so we have to be very careful, but I am absolutely looking forward to it! »

The same can be sad for his twin brother Tom Coronel who already was in Saudi Arabia this weekend for the final two races of the FIA WTCR – World Touring Car Cup season and therefore was unable to attend the farewell event in Huizen. He says: « Last time, we had a competitive car, but unfortunately, we were able to drive only half of the rally with it. Now, I am even more eager because of it. We have already shown that we should be able to reach something around 20th place, which is our goal and gives us that little bit of additional spirit. A little less adventure, a little more competition. » For the previous event, it was already planned for Tom Coronel to do some more of the driving, but because of the retirement, that never materialised. « So now, that has to happen, I am very much looking forward to that, » he says.

Next to the car for Tim and Tom Coronel, a second car will be participating in the event under the Coronel Dakar Team banner with Michel Kremer/Thomas de Bois as the line-up. In preparation for the Dakar Rally, Tim Coronel competed in the Baja Portalegre in Portugal and the Andalucía Rally in Spain together with Miche Kremer. « With a second car in the team, you can help each other which enables us to push that little bit harder again, » Tom Coronel explains. His brother Tim is very positive about the cooperation with Kremer and De Bois, who has a lot of Dakar experience. « Of course, Thomas has already competed with a motorcycle, a truck and a car, but is now taking on the role as the navigator. Michel is now the driver and already got quite some experience with the car as well. They perfectly fit into the team and are running with the same livery as Ton and myself. We are ready for it and we are eager to go! »

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