A tall long dune. A whole pile of sand somewhere in the sky. Martin Prokop switches to a six for a moment, then lowers it to a five, four and three. Just pull the gear lever. It’s a Sadev sequence, the electronics can do automatic intergases on demand, they say it depends on the specific situation. Fortunately, we drive to the edge of the dune on its side, for a while there is only the sky in front of us, then we fall somewhere. My pupils dilate, it’s a funnel, it’s a trap! But then I see tracks, we turn around and go over the next edge on my side. Shrek rushes through the sand with a lightness that certainly does not correspond to the fact that he weighs at least two and a half tons.
Four, five, one long jerk on the steering wheel. I try to turn my head to see where Martin is looking, but the HANS (neck and head protection system) won’t let me. “We are now looking for a crossing point, it is already opening. We reach it, then we turn to a new course. This is normally reported to me by Viktor, then I keep an eye on it here in front of me,” I hear in my headphones.
I’m not reporting anything. I only tried the first three fields of the electronic roadbook, then I gave up. But I will write about navigation another time. This is supposed to be about the new Shrek, i.e. a car whose documents say it is a Ford Raptor, but in reality it is a Dakar special that has been developed and pampered for years and built in the workshops of MP Sport in Jihlava. And now it got a new engine – a twin-turbo six-cylinder 3.5 liter.
He lost sound but gained strength
Martin Prokop has been talking about the new engine for two years, but only now has it been realized. “It’s two years of preparation, work and inventing. I’m incredibly proud of my team for putting this together. Everything was created by us, everything is custom-made. Each pipe had to be bent correctly, a new arrangement had to be devised, the electronics completely redone…” When Prokop calculates it, he still shakes his head in disbelief.
Not to either. After last year’s Dakar, there was an option to buy a factory Toyota, but in the end they decided to go their own way. Again. “Having a unique car at the start, that in itself is a win for us. We have the most fun this way.”
I’ve sat in the passenger seat of the old Shrek, then when it was rebuilt to the latest specs so the huge wheels, and now when it got a new heart.
It’s a six-cylinder, like the racing BRX from Prodriv. “A turbocharged six-cylinder is the only option to at least get close to the factory teams. We lost that exceptional sound, but we gained power and speed. And we will not lose like that at higher altitudes, for example in the Hail area, where we are some 1,100 meters above sea level, we were losing some forty horses,” says Prokop.
The FIA parameters speak clearly, the maximum power of supercharged cars of the T1+ category is set at 266 kW, i.e. some 360 horsepower. “We are there somewhere,” shrugs Ivan Matoušek, the team’s engineer. “Output of 360 horsepower and some 650 Nm. I don’t know the acceleration to a hundred, we didn’t measure it. I am happy that we will get to the speed limit of 170 km/h better and faster.”
But I suspect the acceleration, I looked at some onboards. It was just under five seconds. On the gravel! For a car that weighs safely over 2,010kg, the prescribed weight limit for a car without fuel, crew and prescribed equipment, that’s a great figure. “We have two fewer cylinders, but the car is heavier. This is due to significantly greater cooling,” says Matoušek. When I ask how much the car weighs, he laughs and answers. “More than we want and need.” I’m guessing that when Shrek has a full 500 liter tank and is loaded with all the necessary parts that Prokop and Chytka take with them, it can easily be over three tons.
Development and testing
The idea of giving Shrek a turbocharged engine is more than two years old, but its implementation was anything but easy. Just getting a new engine (and one is definitely not enough) was a piece of cake, then fitting it into the modified frame and then adapting everything else to it, especially the electronics and cooling.
Shrek, who used to race in the Dakar, became a test mule. A completely new car was created for a sharp race. “A few things were already ready, but when the old Shrek returned from Dakar, intensive work began on it,” explains Ivan Matoušek. “On the first of May, we were on the brakes. We left for the first sharp test on May 4th in Poland, and the next big test was waiting for us in June. In addition to Martin, Štěpán Vojtěch also drove in the car, and in the end, Petr Brynda, who is our chief mechanic, also raced with him. We drove some seven hundred kilometers in two.’
Right after that, they sent Shrek to Dubai to test him in his natural environment. At the beginning of August, temperatures climbed to fifty degrees during the day, so it was only possible to test early in the morning, but it bore fruit. “It was definitely clear that we are on the right path,” smiles Prokop. The team still struggled with the high water temperature, but now everything is looking good for the first ride in Saudi Arabia, where they brought the latest cooling modification. “I suspect that it is version number five,” says Ivan Matoušek. “Bigger cooler in the back, smaller in the front, but faster water flow. So far it’s working.”
And everything else seems to work too. As for the rest of the drivetrain, the changes were minimal. For example, the axles and differentials are the same as in Shrek with an eight-cylinder engine. “It works and hopefully it will work. Must. For example, we have some idea about stronger differentials, we even already have them as a model from a 3D printer, but it was not within our power and possibilities to complete them in their final form.
MP Sports is a team where five people work full-time, and in addition to Shrek, they also take care of the rally special in which Prokop competes in selected competitions of the World Championship. “We’re going one hundred and ten percent, we can’t do more,” says Martin Prokop honestly. And you can see that he is happy about it all.
The car that will start in the prologue of the Dakar Rally on January 5th is therefore newly built, it was homologated on September 20th, and right after that, with a sealed engine and data obtained from the official FIA brake, it went to Dubai for testing again. And I rode it now at the Dakar shakedown, which is a pre-race test.
It stretches like honey!
I am wearing the overalls of Viktor Chytka, who has been navigating Prokop on the Dakar for the fifth year already and is already one of the most experienced co-drivers in the field. He’s a little taller than me and my straps are looser, the helmet squeezes me more than I’m comfortable with, but the shakedown route is only a merciful twenty-three kilometers long.
“But don’t worry, they have everything here. At the beginning it’s a fast burner, then stones, then sand, then a trial, then sand again and at the end another burner,” Prokop promises me as we wait in a line of cars, light prototypes and motorbikes. Yesterday the categories were still separate, on the second day of testing cars and motorcycles are going together.
A while ago I was watching Shrek start, I wanted to see the differences between the hybrid Audi and the factory Toyotas, but in the end I only saw Sainz’s rocket start. “Toyotas have a private test. Which is forbidden, but they probably allowed it,” Prokop tells me. And then…
I wish you all a successful start to the new day ✌️ I am writing my impressions after the ride with the new TurboSHREK 🤩 Martin Prokop – thanks for the ride Viktor Chytka – thanks for the briefing and overalls Soon at the Garage 😉
Posted by Jan Červenka – journalist on Wednesday, January 3, 2024
Then he shifts into first gear, pulls on the handbrake lever, just like in WRC specials, and in the following moments I experience firsthand what I saw from the outside a moment ago. First impression?
In the cabin, Shrek is perhaps even quieter than it appears from the outside. The six-speed sequence has the qualities stacked short to suit the nature of the turbocharged engine. So it’s not about power, it’s about torque. The two ranks right away, the three as well, but even on the four and five the rush of power doesn’t stop. It’s not as explosive as an eight-cylinder, the engine doesn’t bark as much. “It’s better to control in more complex situations, I don’t have to shift gears all the time, the engine takes over when needed,” Prokop tells me.
I can’t see where Martin is looking, but even in the terrain, on which you can tell that he has been driving here since morning, i.e. in deep ruts or rutted sand, his hands are completely relaxed on the steering wheel. He drives the car a lot with the gas, he uses the weight transfer when he uses the brakes to send the car in the direction it needs to go. It’s unbelievable how peaceful it all seems.
“No, I didn’t have to get used to the engine’s different performance, it came naturally,” answers Prokop to my question. “But what I’m still getting used to are the shock absorbers and springs.” The newest set, which they prepared after the last testing in Dubai, flew to Saudi Arabia with us, and it was quite evident that it fit Prokop. They tried several setups and other sets before finally coming back to square one. And it works really great!
I remember very well how the last ride was not very good for me, how jumpy Shrek was on the back wheels. Constant steering wheel corrections, nervous on the horizons. And this is completely gone! I remember very well the very first ride in the dunes, when I was just scared for the first fifteen minutes. Now my mouth is more open and I don’t understand what the car can do and how calm it seems at the same time.
“That ass stretches like honey,” is the first thing that comes to mind when Matoušek asks me what I think about it. I kind of expected the engine to be as it is, but the calmness of the chassis surprised me. I will remember for a long time how sensitively and almost gently we turned ninety degrees to a different course at 120 km/h gentle drift or how Shrek didn’t even swing when we went off the rails onto the untouched surface. And the last hole, which at first I thought Prokop missed, but he just wanted to show me how well the chassis irons it. Oh man…
No, Shrek wouldn’t really win the beauty pageant. It lives up to its name more than ever, especially when viewed from behind. But it works a lot better than the previous version. It doesn’t even have the best sound anymore, but it doesn’t make it faster. So, now let him be reliable and Martin and Viktor 100 percent! The rest will be seen on January 19 at the finish line. Good luck!