Thankfully the days when motorsport was seen as a male-only endeavour are in the past. In fact, at this year’s Dakar Rally, 60 women are competing against their male counterparts in the toughest race on earth, including some female-only teams. We take a look at five women making their mark on the 2022 Dakar Rally.
For Molly Taylor, competing in the Dakar was her destiny. Born into a family of motorsport fans, she got a taste for the sport at an early age and has since gone on to make it into a career. Competing in the T4 SSV class as part of the Can-Am Factory South Racing team, she cut her teeth in traditional rallies in her native Australia, before competing in the United Kingdom, as well as in Europe. She went on to WRC and even became the first female (and youngest) winner of the Australian Rally Championship. She’s also been involved in Extreme E, where she caught the bug for desert driving. “The Dakar is all new for me. It’s so different. It’s just a massive adventure and challenge,” she said.
Ranking at stage 10: 13th
Last year was Audrey Rossat’s first Dakar, where she finished third in the women’s ranking and 59th overall. Back again for 2022, the enduro rider is once more competing in the popular and highly competitive Bike category. Speaking of her participation, Audrey said: “After the (2021) Dakar, I didn't necessarily want to start again. But the enthusiasm of my relatives, my partners and many people convinced me. After a month, I wanted to go back! Usually, I ride between trees. There, for kilometres, we are in the middle of the desert! It offers indescribable serenity. I had little experience reading the roadbook and I was afraid to arrive at the bivouac at night, but I held on."
Ranking at stage 10: 103rd
After swapping a career as a professional footballer for rally raids, Margot Llobera makes her Dakar debut as a co-driver in the all-female FN Speed Team. Accompanying Margot in the driving seat is Mercé Martí, with the assistance of their female mechanics back in the bivouac. Normally Margot can be found on two wheels, but this year she’s racing in the T3 category in a Can-Am Maverick X3. She said of her Dakar attempt: “This 100% female project is something brutal. I'm super happy because they called me in June and I had already been practicing co-driving for the past year with a historic Dakar, and the idea of Mercé motivated me a lot. It will be a challenge to go from riding a motorcycle to co-driving a car, but we have done several tests and races these months and I have adapted well. Everything is perfect. The objective will be to finish it, because we are working to have the maximum guarantees of not failing. Of course, we will try to enjoy it to the fullest, solving the problems efficiently. Being on the starting podium will already be a great victory for me and for all the people who have been working hard behind me”.
Ranking at stage 10: 30th
Making her debut this year in the Dakar, Saudi Mashael Alobaidan is no stranger to the desert. Growing up, she was roaring over the dunes on dirt bikes, buggies and quads. Now, she’s taking the wheel of a Can-Am Maverick X3 as part of the South Racing squad competing in the T3 category. “To drive on this famous event in Saudi is a dream come true,” said Mashael, the first Saudi women to compete in the Dakar (along with fellow competitor Dania Akeel). She added: “I’m doing what I love and I’m receiving so much support from people who say that what I am doing is inspiring a lot of people. I soon realised that I was unlocking doors and breaking down barriers with my achievements. We are paving the way for females to understand the journey we are taking and to join us. The sport is really booming here.”
Ranking at stage 10: 17th
In 2021, the Dakar organisers created a new category – the Dakar Classic – for vehicles built in the 1980s and 1990s. Making her appearance in her stunning René Metge tribute Porsche 911 (and finishing 15th), Amy and her co-driver Sara Bossaert are back again. She said: “Last year was a really steep learning curve. Going into it we understood the basic principles of a regularity rally, the broad-brush strokes if you like, but none of the subtleties. Turns out there’s a lot of strategy and we learnt a great deal as the rally went on. We improved our results every day and in the second week of the race really started to get our heads around the whole concept. We also had an amazing time and so coming back was a no brainer. Although our car is two-wheel drive and not four like the original, it went really well, with a broken shock mount being pretty much our only problem. A podium would be excellent but we’d be very happy with a Top 10.”
Ranking at stage 10: 36th