Monday, March 4, 2024

Gautier Paulin moves from motocross to rally raid, driving Apache in 2024 Africa Eco Race

Gautier Paulin knows his way around the dirt on two wheels, but will now see if his skills can translate to the sand on four when he makes his rally raid début in the 2024 Africa Eco Race, driving the Apache APH-01.

“Third chapter of my life, behind a steering wheel on four wheels,” said Paulin. “After making a career on a bike then on a motorcycle, racing on four wheels is now a reality. We will leave Monaco on 30 December and arrive in Dakar on 14 January, it will be a great adventure. We have trained a lot, but not on our usual terrain, so I’m looking forward to it.”

After spending his youth and teen years in BMX, Paulin competed in the FIM Motocross World Championship from 2007 to 2020. He finished third in the 2009 MX2 standings before graduating to the top-flight MXGP class as a factory rider for Honda and eventually Yamaha. In 2015, Paulin placed runner-up in MXGP points with three wins.

Paulin is one of the greatest riders to have raced in the Motocross des Nations. He and the French team won the event five years in a row from 2014 to 2018, the second longest winning streak by a single country. This stretch also allowed Paulin to be tied for the third most MXoN wins of all time by an individual competitor.

He retired from motocross after the 2020 season, ending his career with nine MXGP wins and a fifth-place championship finish. In 2023, Paulin was named the head coach of France’s MXoN team.

The Apache APH-01 is a hybrid side-by-side vehicle that is capable of FIA competition in the Challenger (formerly T3) category. It uses both an electric and a Peugeot internal combustion engine, the latter providing most of the car’s power, as well as second-generation biofuels. Developed by Apache Automotive and unveiled in June, it is touted as “the most advanced T3 prototype ever designed.”

Mathieu Serradori débuted the car at the Baja Portalegre 500, a round of the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Bajas, in October though it was not classified. The first commercial model rolled out of the factory in late November. The APH-01 is eligible to race in the World Rally-Raid Championship’s T3.U category for electric Challenger cars, though taking part in the Africa Eco Race means it will not appear at the concurrent Dakar Rally.

Rémi Boulanger will serve as Paulin’s co-driver. While he runs the AER, which follows the original Dakar Rally’s route from Europe to Senegal, his brother Édouard will enter the current Dakar Rally in Saudi Arabia as navigator for Stéphane Peterhansel. Rémi also has Dakar Rally experience, running the 2023 edition as Lionel Baud’s co-driver.

The 2024 Africa Eco Race begins on 30 December 2023 and runs through 14 January.