The 2018 Dakar Rally roars into life in January and only the most intrepid offroad racers have signed up for the challenge. Among the fearless competitors taking on the world’s toughest rally are the Red Bull Desert Wings squad. Across all four categories we have a courageous mix of past champions and rally-raid rookies preparing to push themselves to the limit in South America.
Returning car race champions Team Peugeot Total will once again bring their D-ream Team of driving talent. Their fleet of four Peugeot 3008DKR Maxis will be in the hands of Stéphane Peterhansel (13-time Dakar winner), Carlos Sainz (one Dakar win), Cyril Despres (five Dakar bike titles) and Sébastien Loeb (nine-time WRC winner).
Since returning to the Dakar in 2015, after an absence of 25 years, Peugeot have wasted no time in reestablishing themselves as the team to beat. Peterhansel has delivered back-to-back wins for Team Peugeot Total at the past two editions and was joined on the podium earlier this year by Loeb and Despres as the French outfit recorded a 1-2-3 result.
Among the drivers looking to breakup Peugeot’s dominance in the car category are two previous Dakar champions flying the flag for the Toyota Gazoo Racing Team. Nasser Al-Attiyah (two-time Dakar winner) and Giniel De Villiers (one Dakar win) have been testing the Toyota Hilux in extreme conditions throughout the year in an effort to get ahead of their rivals.
Further competition in the car race will come from a pair of MINI drivers who are out to make their mark in rally-raid. Kuba Przygoński has transferred to cars from bikes in recent years while rookie Bryce Menzies arrives from American Baja racing.
Taking on the Dakar’s punishing two-week schedule for the first time in 2018 will be the all-new KTM 450 Rally. The hopes of the Red Bull KTM Factory Team securing their 17th consecutive Dakar win are resting on this redesigned bike and the four riders taking the saddle. Both Sam Sunderland and Toby Price already know what it takes to win the Dakar while Matthias Walkner and Antoine Méo are chasing their first titles.
Challenging this foursome will be Stefan Svitko of the Slovnaft Team who proved he has what it takes with a runners-up finish in 2016. Expect the biggest cheers in La Paz to be reserved for Bolivia’s Daniel and Walter Nosiglia while millions in India will be tracking the progress of CS Santosh.
Gunning for victory in the truck division will be Team Kamaz Master as the serial winners from Russia ship over to South America. The Blue Armada will be piloted by Eduard Nikolaev (two-time Dakar winner), Ayrat Mardeev (one Dakar title), Dmitry Sotnikov and Anton Shibalov as the reigning champions send four trucks into battle in 2018.
Then there’s Ignacio Casale, who’ll be going for his second Dakar Rally win in the quad category after reigning supreme in 2014. The Chilean came second in the quad race in 2017, so now he’ll be on the charge to go one better in Peru, Bolivia and Argentina.