Monday, May 27, 2024

ASO, FIM begin selecting 2024 Dakar Rally riders

“Dakar has once again generated strong enthusiasm during the registrations in the Motorbike and Quad categories, and we thank you for your interest. Many of you have expressed your attachment and willingness to participate in the Dakar by submitting your application for the 2024 edition.

“After careful consideration of your application, we are pleased to announce that you have been selected for the 46th edition of the Dakar rally, which will take place from 5 to 19 January 2024, from Al’Ula to Yanbu, in Saudi Arabia. […]

“By taking part in the biggest rally in the world, not only are you writing your own story, but also that of the Dakar’s legend. We are very happy to welcome you as a competitor in this next edition and will be by your side throughout this incredible adventure.”

This letter from race director David Castera and competition director Charles Cuypers is what applicants hoped to see when they checked their inboxes, but only 120 will actually get it. The Amaury Sport Organisation and FIM began selecting bike and quad riders for the 2024 Dakar Rally last Friday, completing a month-long application and evaluation process in which registrants supplied a dossier of their qualifications and races they ran. Those accepted include returning faces from 2023, newcomers to Dakar, and those who return after not taking part in January.

One of the easiest ways to qualify is to race in an FIM-sanctioned event such as any of the World Rally-Raid Championship rounds and standing out. Tobias Ebster and Francisco Alvarez earned their spots by winning the Road to Dakar at the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge and Sonora Rally, a programme that ensures free admission for those with no prior Dakar experience; Ebster went a step beyond by winning the Rally2 overall at the ADDC.

The ADDC in March was how Oran O’Kelly, Modestas Siliunas, and Vincent Biau clinched Dakar grid slots as the trio finished third through fifth among Road to Dakar entrants. O’Kelly, who has also raced in the FIM Bajas World Cup, will be the first Irish rider to compete since 2013. Biau will take part in the Malle Moto category (officially known as Original by Motul) for solo riders.

Ashley Thixton, Ronald Venter, and Dwain Barnard were part of a southern African contingent in Mexico to punch their Dakar tickets, competing in the Sonora Rally in April and respectively running third, fourth, and ninth in the Road to Dakar.

Javier Campos was accepted on his 2022 merits, which included a forty-third at the Rallye du Maroc. Romain Duchêne also built his submitted résumé around the race as the former enduro rider placed thirty-sixth.

As the above are set for their Dakar débuts, others head back after taking a year off for various reasons. From Greece, Vasilis Boudros is back following a seventieth in 2022. TwinTrail Racing Team returns with a tandem of Isaac Feliu and Carles Falcón, the former having recovered from severe injuries sustained in a crash at the 2022 race. Ashish Raorane will race for the first time since 2021, albeit in the traditional Rally2 class with Xraids Experience after doing Malle Moto in his first run. Conversely, Iader Giraldi raises the stakes for his second Dakar by moving from Rally2 to Malle Moto.

Riders who are initially rejected might be heartbroken at the moment, but not all hope is lost as they can still earn their eligibility if they excel in FIM events held later in the year such as the W2RC’s Desafio Ruta 40 in August or the Rallye du Maroc in October. Ruben Saldaña Goñi is a Dakar 2023 example after being turned down in July for a lack of desert racing experience only to perform well in the 2022 Moroccan event to qualify.

The 2024 Dakar Rally commences on 5 January.