Sunday, May 19, 2024

Sebastian Halpern forgoing Rallye du Maroc, 2024 Dakar Rally

The Desafío Ruta 40 was supposed to be a homecoming for Argentina native Sebastián Halpern, who won the last edition in 2018. Unfortunately, his return proved to be a disappointment as mechanical failures and other misfortunes dropped him to the bottom of the order in T1.

After the race, citing concerns with the Mini John Cooper Works Rally Plus, Halpern told Carburando he will not take part in the 2024 Dakar Rally nor the Rallye du Maroc in October.

Halpern had been running the full World Rally-Raid Championship calendar for X-raid Team‘s Mini JCW programme. After finishing ninth overall at Dakar, he improved to fourth and third at the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge and Sonora Rally, respectively. Although his DR 40 began with a third in Stage #1, a broken alternator and axle across the next two days prevented him from defending his win. He still reached the finish, albeit sixth of six cars in T1 and over twenty and a half hours back of winner Nasser Al-Attiyah.

His decision not to race in Morocco or next year’s Dakar Rally stems from questions surrounding the Mini JCW Rally Plus. New for 2023, the car competes in the T1+ subcategory for upgraded prototype vehicles. Although more powerful and efficient than its standard Mini JCW predecessor, Halpern feels it is not yet capable of contending for overall wins with powerhouses like the Toyota Hilux T1+ or the Prodrive Hunter, and plans to see how it performs with other drivers in the next few events.

His Mini was the only non-Hilux entered in T1 at Argentina. While Denis Krotov typically serves as his team-mate in another Mini, he elected to pilot a Hilux for the race and finished fifth. The Hilux has won all four W2RC races in 2023 as well as already clinching the manufacturer’s championship.

However, Halpern stressed that it is “not a goodbye but a see you soon,” confirming his intent to return for at least the 2024 DR 40. He also expressed a willingness to reunite with Mini for the effort, though is open to other options if available.

Incidentally, the Mini JCW Rally Plus scored its first victory at the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Bajas’ Baja Poland with Krzysztof Hołowczyc on the same weekend that the DR 40 began. Hołowczyc plans to run the 2024 Dakar Rally with the Mini.