Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Olaf Harmsen joins Gaia Motorsports as Jeffrey Otten’s navigator

After running a pair of Dakar Rallies on two wheels, Olaf Harmsen will be on four wheels for the 2024 edition. On Wednesday, Gaia Motorsports announced Harmsen has joined the team as the co-driver to Jeffrey Otten.

Harmsen made his Dakar début in 2020, but crashed out after three stages while trying to pass another rider. Later in the year, he entered the Andalucía Rally in the top level RallyGP class and finished twenty-sixth, which set up a return to Dakar in 2021. Riding for BAS World KTM, Harmsen successfully completed the race in fifty-seventh overall and forty-sixth in the G2 category (predecessor to the current Rally2). Plans to race the 2023 Dakar Rally were dropped due to a lingering shoulder injury from a serious motorcycle accident in 2008, which also forced him to abandon the 2022 Rallye du Maroc after two days of racing.

He started his career in motorcycle road racing from 2001 to 2007 before switching to motocross and supermoto with some speedway, while he entered rally in 2018. Outside of motorsport, he works in real estate.

“Looking forward to this new challenge as a navigator instead of a motorcyclist,” said Harmsen.

Otten hailed from a rally bike background like Harmsen before suffering severe injuries in a 2018 crash that prompted a transition to cars. He ran his first Dakar in 2022 in a Can-Am and finished twenty-seventh among SSVs (categorised today under T4). At the 2023 race, Otten broke his wrist in Stage #13 but reached the finish twenty-second overall in T4 with a best daily run of twentieth in Stage #9. Otten put his Can-Am up for sale after the rally as he plans to move up to T3 for 2024.

The broken wrist sidelined him for the Morocco Desert Challenge in April, but he returned to action at the Rallye Breslau two months later where he and his new Can-Am T3 finished twenty-sixth in SSV.

Marco Bouman, a close friend of Otten who served as his Dakar and Breslau navigator, will remain with Gaia Motorsports in a supporting capacity.

Harmsen’s first race with Gaia will be the Fenek Rally in Morocco on 7–15 October. The 2024 Dakar Rally begins on 5 January.