Capturing the spirit of the original Paris-Dakar Rally, the Dakar Classic was launched last year in Saudi Arabia. It’s a new category that sees some of the star cars from an earlier period in Dakar history taking to the hallowed roads again. Following much success and interest in the category, the field of entrants has grown from 25 vehicles last year to more than 140 this year. One of those people taking part is our very own head of brand, Romain Grabowski. Let’s take a look at Romain’s first Dakar and some of the other cars he’s competing against.
Romain, what vehicles can take part in the Dakar Classic?
This category is open to vehicles from 1979, the year the Dakar was invented by Thierry Sabine, to 2000. Our car is one of the oldest participating. It’s a Lada Niva from 1982.
Why are you taking part?
Dakar has always been a family topic. Something I used to talk about with my father, Denis Grabowski, for many years. He was passionate about the Dakar and participated three times in the 1980s.
Tell us more about your car
In the garage we had the original Lada Niva that my father used and kept until 2003. Sadly, that car was sold, but I found one really similar and I started to think about doing Dakar myself. It has always been a dream of mine. When I was at the Dakar in 2021, killing time on a liaison bus to the next bivouac, I spotted a Lada Niva on “le bon coin” with exactly the same specifications as my father’s and I immediately bought it. When I took delivery, I started to turn it into my father’s car. Now, if you could put both cars next to one another you would not be able to tell the difference.
What did you do to make your car eligible for the rally?
We have been working a lot on the suspension because the very first thing I learned a few years ago when I started rally is that the suspension is key to not damage the car. If you go on such an event with bad suspension, you will break everything because of the vibration. I didn’t want to upgrade the car too much because the more you upgrade the more you lose reliability.
How is the car holding up during the Dakar Classic?
It’s extremely important every night (after the stages) to have a routine to check everything. We have a classic car specialist on the team. First, we do a visual control just to make sure (everything’s working) and to check the damage on the car. We are planning to do three oil changes during the event and this is important for the car. Every night we find a few things to improve and repair. It’s extremely important for the brain, because when we are leaving the bivouac, we are leaving with peace of mind.