– Al-Rajhi, Yacopini, Chicherit, Krotov and De Mévius head strong line-up
– Toyota looks to secure a hat-trick of Dakar Rally successes in Saudi Arabia
Overdrive Racing will run Toyota Hiluxes and crew members from eight different nations, while offering logistical back-up to Toyota Gazoo Racing at the 46th Dakar Rally.
The opening round of the 2024 FIA World Rally-Raid Championship (W2RC) takes place entirely inside the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for a fifth year. It starts in Al-Ula on Friday (January 5th) and finishes adjacent to the Red Sea in Yanbu on January 19th.
The Japanese manufacturer has won the world’s most famous cross-country rally for the last two years and Toyotas finished in five of the top seven positions at the Dakar in 2023.
Overdrive Racing finished on the podium for the last two seasons, courtesy of Yazeed Al-Rajhi and Lucas Moraes, and Al-Rajhi fronts the team again in 2024 with German co-driver Timo Gottschalk.
Fresh from finishing as runner-up to former team-mate Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah in last year’s W2RC, Al-Rajhi has prepared well for his home event, the Riyadh driver claiming wins at the last two rounds of the Saudi Toyota Rally Championship in Qassim and Jeddah after finishing second in November’s Dubai International Baja.
Argentina’s Juan-Cruz Yacopini and Spanish co-driver Daniel Oliveras were classified third in the 2023 W2RC and finished seventh in the Dakar Rally last year. They crew the second of the Overdrive Toyotas.
Guerlain Chicherit and Guillaume de Mévius have joined forces on a multi-year partnership and will race a pair of GR DKR Hiluxes prepared by Overdrive Racing. Along with their respective co-drivers, Alex Winocq and Xavier Panseri, the Frenchman and the Belgian will field two cars in brown and gold liveries based on the GMC pick-up truck driven by Colt Seavers in the 1980s television series The Fall Guy.
Chicherit debuted the new livery at the Rally du Maroc in October but was unable to defend his title and retired after an accident. De Mévius was running strongly inside the top 10 on his debut with the team in North Africa before losing time. He fought back through the field to finish 19th.
Denis Krotov and Konstantin Zhiltsov crew the fifth of the Overdrive Racing Toyotas and the line-up of the seven crews registered for the W2RC is completed by the Italian duo of Eugenio Amos and Paulo Ceci and the French pairing of Lionel and Lucie Baud. The father and daughter combination carried out a valuable shakedown of their latest specification Toyota in the recent Jeddah Rally in Saudi Arabia and finished seventh and second in the T1+ category.
Isidre Esteve Pujol and José-Maria Villalobos finished last year’s Dakar with Overdrive Racing and return to crew the eighth car which is not registered for the W2RC. Ronan Chabot and Gilles Picard of France round off the impressive team line-up.
In addition, Overdrive Racing is working in unison with Toyota Gazoo Racing to defend the W2RC Drivers’, Co-drivers’ and Manufacturers’ titles that were secured so emphatically with victories in all five rounds of the championship and a 1-2-3 in the Drivers’ Championship last season.
Toyota Gazoo Racing is fielding the latest versions of the Toyota GR DKR Hilux for Brazilian driver Lucas Moraes, talented young American Seth Quintero, South African driver Saood Variawa and 2009 event winner Giniel de Villiers.
Moraes finished third overall as a member of Overdrive Racing last year with Al-Rajhi’s co-driver Timo Gottschalk, while veteran South African De Villiers was fourth.
This year’s Dakar starts out of the city of Al-Ula in the north, before competitors tackle a scheduled 4,720 competitive kilometres in a route of 7,891km.
Action gets underway with a 28km Prologue stage on Friday (January 5th) and this precedes a barrage of gruelling desert stages, starting with a run southeast through the heart of the Kingdom towards overnight bivouacs in Al-Henakiyah, Al-Duwadimi and Al-Salamiya.
A demanding route laid on by the A.S.O. then heads towards Al-Hofuf and sweeps south to an overnight stop over at the town of Shubaytah on January 10th.
This year’s Dakar then includes a new 48-hour Marathon stage through the vast Empty Quarter south of Shubaytah. Competitors will be able to help each other with basic repairs and maintenance, although teams will be split between eight different overnight bivouacs.
After the second part of the Marathon stage on January 12th and a long liaison section to Riyadh, crews and teams will enjoy a well-earned rest day in the Saudi capital. Action continues on January 14th with a run west and then north towards Al-Duwadimi and the city of Hail.
Teams will then pass through the northern deserts and the northwestern region of the Kingdom over three remaining stages between Al-Ula and the finish in Yanbu on the Red Sea on January 19th.
2024 Dakar Rally – Overdrive Racing entries
201. Yazeed Al-Rajhi (SAU)/Timo Gottschalk (DEU) Toyota Hilux Overdrive*
205. Juan Cruz Yacopini (ARG)/Daniel Oliveras (ESP) Toyota Hilux Overdrive*
211. Guerlain Chicherit (FRA)/Alex Winocq (FRA) Toyota Hilux Overdrive*
215. Denis Krotov (KGZ)/Konstantin Zhiltsov (ISR) Toyota Hilux Overdrive*
221. Guillaume de Mevius (BEL)/Xavier Panseri (FRA) Toyota Hilux Overdrive*
227. Eugenio Amos (ITA)/Paulo Ceci (ITA) Toyota Hilux Overdrive*
229. Lionel Baud (FRA)/Lucie Baud (FRA) Toyota Hilux Overdrive*
235. Isidre Esteve Pujol (ESP)/José-Maria Villalobos (ESP) Toyota Hilux Overdrive
236. Ronan Chabot (FRA)/Gilles Pillot (FRA) Toyota Hilux Overdrive
* denotes registered for W2RC