Welcoming us into a new year of motorsport, the Dakar Rally kicks off in 2023 and looks set once again to be a thrilling race for off-road fans. This is what the world’s top endurance rally drivers had to say before the start of the race.
DAKAR 2023: WHAT THE WORLD’S TOP OFF-ROAD DRIVERS ARE SAYING BEFORE THE RACE
Guerlain Chicherit – GCK Motorsport
“What has happened this year is very positive. I instantly felt very comfortable with this car. Of course, when we test, we all think we are world champions, but these feelings were confirmed at the Rally of Morocco. In terms of pure speed, we were often the quickest. I had wanted to get back into a good car for a long time, and this one is capable of everything. In Morocco, I was careful to drive two notches below my potential, and I didn't make the slightest mistake: I arrived ready to battle and left feeling quite confident. The navigation was complicated, and yet Alex did a great job. I think we have the maturity to go the distance. The unknown factor is clearly the performance and reliability of the Audis, but they didn't stop once in Morocco! And generally speaking, I don't know if I've ever seen such a strong field of contenders. While we wait to see how the regulations on alternative energy vehicles evolve, I have decided to keep things separate for the car we will be preparing with GCK. I want to give myself a chance to win the Dakar. And if in 2025 our car is ready, I will be prepared”.
Mathieu Serradori – Century Racing Factory Team
“The partnership with Century has been accentuated this season because we are going to inherit a vehicle and some of the engineers from the manufacturer. For the first time on the Dakar, Century Racing is providing two cars to support drivers. Brian Baragwanath and myself. We thus hope to reduce the gap with the T1+. We knew we were back in the slack, pulling it. This engine is more linear with more extension, it has a wider range of use. We were able to test the car in Namibia in big dunes representative of what we should find on the Dakar this year and we were happy with the result. Now, we can't wait to see if this evolution will reduce lap times. I no longer consider us private pilots, but we do not yet have the same means as official pilots strictly speaking. We are on the way to professionalisation, on the right path to fight in front, why not in the Top 5?”
Christian Lavieille – MD Rallye Sport
“MD Rallye has built us a great performance package. The car shows a lot of potential and it will prove to be very fast. On the other side, we have to be honest with ourselves. As a private team, it will be hard to keep up with the factory teams. Our main goal is just to do the best race possible and we’ll see how far up the order that gets us. I’ve been very happy to have Motul by my side for quite a while now and I'm excited about being able to drive the “Motul car” in the Dakar. In all seriousness, I’m very happy with this car and Motul. Motul is the lubricant maker with the strongest motorsport identity of them all and I’m grateful to be associated with them.”
David Zille – South Racing Can-Am
“For us the 2022 Dakar was very good. We brought ourselves the objective: we wanted to enter the top 10 and we were P10. It was a tough race not only physically, but also mentally. You have to maintain concentration every day and a good relationship with the sailor, which is essential. Then we went to Morocco. With all the training we did up to that point, it was necessary to get back in the race car. Although the P11 is not bad, we know that with the pace we have -we even became leaders- that push encourages us to seek an ambitious result in the Dakar."
Gerard Farres Guell – South Racing Can Am
“I am excited to continue with the team that has given me everything. It will be my fifth year with South Racing after taking my second podium with them and coming very close to victory in 2022. The SSV has changed my mentality a lot compared to my time on a bike; I was never afraid of it, but I had a lot of respect for the challenge and the danger of this rally. Being in a T4, I can focus more on driving and enjoying the competition. It will never be like motorcycling, which has always been my passion, but I am having a great time. And I am still competitive”.
Molly Taylor – South Racing Can Am
“I come from a family of motorsports. My grand-father was in rallying and my mother was a four-time Australian champion as a co-driver. I started at the age of 15, so I can say that motorsports are my life. I had always been thinking of doing more off-road. The Dakar was a race I used to watch. I remember sitting on my couch seeing what people had to go through in the middle of nowhere. I learned so much from my first experience at the Dakar and I really can’t wait to build on everything that we’ve learnt. As part of our preparation we also took on the Morocco rally. Let’s get started.”
Pietro Cinotto – Xtremeplus Polaris Factory Team
“It was amazing to return to the Dakar last year. It was my first time with a SSV, after driving a T2. So, it was a totally different experience. I made a mistake on the second day so the whole race was about catching up and it was a great adventure. Now I have one more year of experience and it’s fresh while my brother [Carlo] hasn’t done the Dakar for 10 years.
I’m excited because, finally, the three of us are doing it together again. There is one race, the Dakar, but there is also a competition in the family. That’s the challenge within the challenge, and it’s nice. For sure, if one of us has a problem, we’ll try to help him as much as we can. But we’re here to race, not to enjoy the view and the time together although the desert is amazing. Last year, I discovered a new country. I remember being on top of sand dunes and wherever you looked, 360 degrees, it was sand everywhere.”