Monday, March 4, 2024

Loder brothers to honour father with G-Wagen at 2024 Dakar Classic

Maximilian Loder and his brother Laurence Loder will make their Dakar Classic débuts in 2024 as the drivers of a Puch 280GE that has been heavily modified to resemble the G-Wagen that their father Josef Loder raced in the 1985 Paris–Dakar Rally.

While the G-Wagen (short for Geländewagen) is famously known as a Mercedes-Benz G-Class, the line started life in 1979 as a military vehicle dubbed the Puch G and developed by Puch, an Austrian manufacturer that was part of Steyr-Daimler-Puch until the conglomerate’s demise in 2001 and operates today as Magna Steyr. It is one of three Puchs eligible for Dakar Classic competition alongside the the 4×4 and 6×6 models of the Steyr-Puch Pinzgauer.

In 1985, Josef was tasked by BMW to race a Puch 280GE as a support vehicle for their bike team BMW Motorrad led by that year’s winner Gaston Rahier. BMW refused to use a Mercedes car as a rival brand, so they opted for strictly the Puch G-Wagen which was identical save for the badging. Adorned with the familiar red and white trim of sponsor Marlboro along with sponsors like Playboy Magazine, the car was piloted by Josef and Herbert Wimmer to an overall finish of ninety-ninth. Nicknamed “Beppo”, Josef had previously raced a Suzuki LJ80 in the 1982 edition but was forced to retire.

Josef and his Maximilian run delta4x4, an aftermarket company specialising in off-road parts for 4×4 vehicles like the LJ80. The older Loder founded the business in 1980 in Odelzhausen. Laurence, who is twenty years younger than his brother, is an engineering student.

Maximilian and Laurence hoped to honour their father by racing the Dakar Classic, a side event to the main Dakar Rally for vehicles built before 1999. However, their 280GE is not even the same model that Josef raced: Josef’s G-Wagen was a two-door version with a long wheelbase, of which only 200 were ever produced, which prompted the duo to convert a four-door model. Their friend Achim Grauert, a former technician for BMW’s Formula One programme, led the project.

The team finally completed the effort just three days before they had to report to Barcelona for Dakar technical inspection. Some members of BMW Motorrad including team principal Dietmar Beinhauer, Alois Schnek who drove another Puch G in 1985, and truck driver Georg Gattinger went to delta4x4’s shop to inspect the vehicle prior to its transit to Spain.

“Not only has it been completed rebuilt from the ground up but it has also been modified to two-door configuration,” said Maximilian. “The 1985 team was sponsored by a cigarette brand and a men’s magazine. The logos of both these brands are very famous and instantly recognisable but neither are acceptable in motorsport today so we’ve worked hard at a producing something that is visually similar without upsetting modern day sensibilities.

“As my dad’s job was to assist the motorcycle riders in his team, his finishing position was clearly not a priority and I think he finished last or maybe second to last. That’s good news for myself and my brother because it means we have no pressure to produce a good result. That’s probably just as well as neither of us have any previous experience with this kind of thing.”

The 2024 Dakar Classic, which is navigation based, begins on 5 January.