The Dakar Rally in the Czech Republic is one of the most watched motoring disciplines. Thanks to the past successes of Karel Lopraise, the competition has thousands of fans in the Czech Republic, and perhaps thanks to this, our female competitors are among the most represented nationalities in the competition. Czech racers have always fought mainly in the truck category, thanks also to the specials of domestic brands. Which trucks from Czech brands have left the most significant mark in the competition in recent years?

Long waiting

Unfortunately, Czech racers have been waiting for victory in the truck category since the beginning of this millennium. So far, the last winner of this category was the legendary Monsieur Dakar, i.e. Karel Loprais, it was in 2001. At that time, the race was still held in Africa, but the Russian Kamaz was a strong competitor even then, with Vladimir Čagin in a racing special.

After all, Kamaz dominated the following years of the competition, which it literally dominated. After all, between 2002 and 2022, Kamaz did not win only four times. In 2007, he was beaten by Hans Stacey with MAN, a year later the Dakar was not held due to the security situation in Africa, and in 2012 and 2016, Gerard de Rooy with Ivec celebrated. As of 2023, Kamaz cannot participate as a Russian team in the Dakar because of Russian aggression in Ukraine.

Instead of Karel Aleš

Thanks to its factory team, the Russian colossus literally crushed all competitors. Czech competitors, however, often successfully seconded him, in much more modest conditions. Karel Loprais was gradually replaced by his nephew Aleš Loprais. Unfortunately, he hasn’t followed up on his uncle’s success (yet), but he does have some strong notches on his racing resume. In 2007, in the last Dakar in Africa, he finished third with the Tatra 815.

Photo: Tatra/Liaz/Prague

The Praga V4S has its own construction, with which Aleš Loprais races today.

Even in the following years, however, he fought for the top positions several times, unfortunately, such a result could not be repeated. In 2012, Loprais was consistently second, but then his car crashed at one of the crossings, due to the microsleep of the then driving passenger. In 2023, he unfortunately had to resign again due to a police investigation when he got involved in a fatal accident of one of the fans. At the time, he was consistently first.

Aleš Loprais was at first loyal to the Tatra brand like his famous uncle. However, he also raced with MAN and Iveco specials for a short time, when his Tatra was not admitted to the race for 2015. The technical commissioners did not like the cabin solution at the time.

Loprais newly with Praga

Since 2020, Loprais has been racing with the special Praga V4S, which replaced the previous Tatra Jamal nicknamed Queen. After Tatra and Liaz, Praga thus became the third Czech brand of trucks starting at the famous Dakar Rally.

At that time, after negotiations with several possible partners, Loprais established cooperation with the Praga brand producing sports specials such as R1R and Bohema. However, the V4S itself is an interesting puzzle of different components. The drive is provided by an Iveco engine paired with an Allison automatic transmission, the chassis comes from Tatra.

The Tatra banner was taken over by Buggyra

However, Tatra has not been missing at the start of the Dakar Rally even in recent years, even though it is no longer associated with the name Loprais. The banner was taken over by the Buggyra stable, which originally became famous in drag racing on circuits.

Photo: Tatra/Liaz/Prague

Shot of two Czech trucks from Dakar.

Buggyra’s beginnings at the Dakar were gradual. In 2011, David Vršecký watched the competition in Marko Spáčil’s crew, but the mission ended in failure after a serious accident in the second stage. A year later, the Gyrtech engine from the Buggyry workshop appeared at the Dakar, in Martin Kolomé’s Tatra. The result was a nice seventh place.

This was followed in 2013 by Buggyra’s first own special for the Dakar. Thanks to the cooperation with the Kopřivnica automobile company, it became the Tatra 815 Buggyra nicknamed Fatboy. She headed to her first Dakar in 2014 with Martin Kolomý at the wheel. Unfortunately, due to a technical problem, the premiere participation ended in the eighth stage. However, the special enjoyed media fame when it completed one of the stages in just three laps.

Photo: Tatra/Liaz/Prague

Tatra team Buggyra.

Buggyra remained strong in subsequent years of the competition, and the new Tatra Phoenix special is coming. However, she did not reach the top ranks, even though Kolomý secured at least the first stage victory for the team in 2016. In this era, it is Kolomý who is closely connected with Buggyra, although in 2017 he is joined by Aleš Loprais in the second car – this connection, however, is short-lived. In 2019, Martin Kolomý also ends up in Buggyra, he was fired after an accident at an advertising event. His place was gradually taken over by Martin Šoltys.

New special with cab

Although Buggyra is also involved in the category of light prototypes after the move of the Dakar to Saudi Arabia, it also remains in the category of trucks. In addition, for 2024, it has prepared a new special Tatra Buggyra Evo3, which uses a new concept with a hooded cabin modeled on competitors. It will primarily be tested by Martin Šoltys, who will be joined by Jaroslav Valtr in the second car in the form of the existing Tatra Phoenix. They will be supported by David Stiblík in the second Phoenix, who will primarily play the role of a quick assist.

Photo: Tatra/Liaz/Prague

Buggyra is also betting on a truck with a “muzzle”.

Despite the gradual evolution, however, older Tatra models still start at the Dakar. In addition to Phoenix and 815, it is Jamal, which is used by Tomáš Vrátný’s Fesh Fesh team, although the last Dakar competitor himself drove a special Ford.

Old Liaz at the start

Tatra experienced the greatest success among Czech brands at the Dakar, but the real pioneer of domestic trucks at this competition was the Liaz. The special Liaz first appeared at the Dakar Rally in 1985, at the then seventh year of the competition. Tatra debuted only a year later. In 1988, at the start of the Dakar, seven licks appeared! This era was mainly associated with the name of Jiří Moskal, who took third place among trucks in 1987 and second place a year later, after a tough fight for victory, which was eventually won by Karel Loprais with rival Tatra.

But while the Tatra car company continued production despite the difficulties after 1989, the less well-known Liaz gradually stopped production, which logically reflected in his sports activities. However, it was not the definitive end of the Dakar.

Photo: Tatra/Liaz/Prague

Historical footage of Martin Macík Sr.’s first Dakar climb.

In 2003, the off-roader Martin Macík took the start with the Liaz car, which appeared at the Dakar after a long break. Macík originally (quite logically) tried to find Tatra, but he did not succeed. In particular, it was a renovated specimen with which the Vonšovský, Záleský, Fanta crew competed in 1992. In the end, it was the twelfth place, which was a clear success for the debutant. Especially when it was a car that had been unused for several years before the competition.

Gradual evolution

Macík also bet on Liazku in the coming years, gradually improving the car. He thus received a new chassis or superstructure. Later it was about other, more modern components. In 2004, a second assistance car also appeared at the start, which became the very last Liaz produced. Such was the plan for the year 2006 as well, but due to the great interest at that time, it was not possible to enter the second assistance car in the competition.

In 2007, Macík’s Liaz was repainted yellow. It also got a new engine, but the team was not satisfied with it, so a year later a Deutz unit followed. In addition, for 2008, it was intended to use the cab of the once planned Liaz 400 “Fox” truck, but due to the set rules, this did not work out. In addition, the previous edition was finally canceled shortly before the start due to the security situation in Mauritania, and thus all the work was wasted.

Photo: Tatra/Liaz/Prague

Martin Macík Sr.’s former climb for the Dakar.

However, Macík continues to compete in the Dakar even after the competition was moved to South America. This starts with the so-called Hrbáč, according to the specific hump behind the cabin required by the rules on the mandatory dimensions of the cargo area.

Further modifications came in the following years. The design changed a bit, as did the power unit, which over time received two turbochargers. The Deutz engine was replaced by a Caterpillar engine. A second car also arrived, the older one was rented to Jaroslav Valtra. Mainly, Martin Macík was gradually replaced in the racing cabin by his son Martin Macík Jr., who in 2015 became the youngest truck racer in the history of the Dakar Rally. Macík Sr. ended his racing career due to health problems with his back.

Photo: Tatra/Liaz/Prague

The latest evolution of the Dakar Rally of Martin Macík’s team.

At that time, an improved Liaz nicknamed Franta was already being built, which received a new frame, modified cabin in black design and a different CAT engine, which was later replaced by an Iveco unit.

Over time, however, it became increasingly clear that if the improving Macík Jr. wants to think about the highest goals, he must bet on significantly more modern technology. In 2020, the new special “Karel” came, which was no longer Liaz, but Ivec. And Macík’s stable continues this collaboration to this day.

The history of the Liaz among the best Dakar trucks has definitely come to an end, but it doesn’t have to be the end of the Dakar. It is quite possible that we will see Liazka again in the Classic category reserved for historical specials.