Monday, March 4, 2024

Patronellis skipping 2024 Dakar Rally

After dominating the Dakar Rally‘s Quad class during its run through their home country of Argentina, Alejandro and Marcos Patronelli planned to make their return in 2024 but have ultimately elected to wait another year. In an interview with Argentine radio station FM Alpha, Alejandro revealed he and his younger brother are putting off their 2024 entry due to funding concerns.

Alejandro described 2024 as instead being a year to “wait and analyse” how the event plays out. The brothers ran a Quad dynasty in the early 2010s as Alejandro won the Dakar twice in 2011 and 2012, while Marcos claimed three in 2010, 2013, and 2016. Marcos had placed runner-up in 2009, the first Dakar with a Quad category, before the duo finished first and second three times.

Although the Dakar continued to run through South America until 2019, the brothers eventually stepped back after 2016 for sponsorship reasons. They considered a return over the following years, but Yamaha Argentina’s factory support alone was not enough to fund another run. The Patronellis announced their plans to return for 2024 in December, only for the same issue to arise again.

The problem was further exacerbated as potential sponsors are currently unavailable due to Argentina being in an election year. The first round of the Argentine general election took place just two days after Alejandro’s interview, and a run-off is scheduled for 19 November. Perhaps the election’s most pressing issue is the country’s economy, which has suffered from significant inflation and a collapsing currency.

In the meantime, the Patronelli family oversees a motorcycle shop.

“That’s why we’re going to wait this year after the elections,” said Alejandro. “We want to do it right. For now, we will take care of the nest, putting money into the factory to move forward. Our parents say that’s it, that we gave everything there was to give; but deep down, Dad likes the idea.”

Alejandro also opined that the Dakar’s move to Saudi Arabia starting in 2020 has produced some hesitancy due to “armed groups that can surprise at any moment, that don’t care about anything.” While Saudi Arabia is not embroiled in a war, he is presumably referring to anti-Saudi militants such as the Islamic State and the Houthi rebels in Yemen; the latter has launched missiles while Formula One and Formula E events were ongoing nearby. Prior to the 2022 Dakar Rally, competitor Philippe Boutron was injured by an improvised explosive device on a support truck he was driving, prompting a terrorism probe by the French government. Outside of these incidents, however, the Rally and other races in the country have otherwise proceeded without issue.

“Argentina was already ‘squeezed’ and they were done in all cardinal points,” he continued, suggesting that the Dakar had already covered the entire country during its time in South America. “Arabia is more sandy than it was in its beginnings, the historic Dakar. Here (in Argentina) it is more rally, there (in Saudi Arabia) more navigation.”

With the Patronellis’ absence, there are only ten Quad entries for the 2024 Dakar Rally, which begins on 5 January. The ASO had increased the eligibility criteria for the class for 2024, requiring interested Quad riders to be have either raced a Dakar in the past five years or signed up for the 2023 or 2024 World Rally-Raid Championship in order to be accepted.