Dacia will participate for the first time in the Dakar in 2025 with French drivers Sébastien Loeb and Spanish Cristina Gutiérrez, the Renault group brand announced on Monday. Sébastien Loeb, nine-time WRC World Rally Champion, will test a Dacia prototype from the end of 2024 at Rallye du Maroc. The model will be prepared by the ProDrive team, already partner of Sébastien Loeb on the World Rally-Raid Championship, of which the Dakar was this year the first round. The 49-year-old Alsatian, second in the event in 2023, will be accompanied by his co-driver Fabian Lurquin.
The second car of the Dacia team will be entrusted to Cristina Gutiérrez, 31 years old. The young but experienced Spanish driver knows Loeb well, with whom she won the Extreme E electric 2022x4 competition at the end of 4. The two prototypes, whose model is due to be unveiled in early 2024, will run on synthetic fuel, produced by combining hydrogen with carbon dioxide.
Dacia has partnered for this fuel with the oil giant Saudi Aramco, a partner of Renault, and a public company in the country that has been hosting the Dakar since 2020. "The Dakar is by nature a full-scale technological laboratory. It is becoming a laboratory for low-carbon mobility," said Dacia boss Denis Le Vot at a press conference in Saint-Denis, near Paris. "We wouldn't have gone to the Dakar without synthetic fuel."
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Dacia wants to promote its "off-road" identity
The Romanian brand is responsible for further developing combustion engines within the group, while Renault and Alpine are building their electric range. Dacias had so far only competed in the Dakar privately.
Dacia, which is recording very good sales with its basic and cheap cars, wants to promote its new "off-road" identity on the Dakar tracks. In parallel with the race, the brand will launch a larger and more elegant SUV than its current Duster, the Bigster, designed to appeal to wealthier customers in Germany or the United Kingdom.
Dacia will give itself the necessary means on the race and "does not want to finish fifth or sixth," said Le Vot. The Dakar will also be "the priority" of Sébastien Loeb, said the driver, who has also joined the World Rallycross Championship (World RX). With Dacia, "the plan is to make the rally-raid championship in 2025-2026, it's important to progress," said the Alsatian champion. "He's my mentor, he's a legend," Cristina Gutiérrez said at his side. "And we get along very well, it's important to develop the car."