In recent years, the Dakar Rally has been dominated by professionals, but we can still find a number of adventurers among the participants, with whom the competition has been associated since its beginnings. And they often put in a car that we would definitely not expect at the start of such a competition. It still applies to this day, but today it is more likely to happen in the Dakar Classic category intended for historic cars.
Škoda to the Dakar
This is exactly the example of the Czech Ondřej Klymčiw, who in 2021 decided to enter the Škoda 130 LR in the newly created category of Dakar Classic historians and repeated this participation in the following years. The rules allow not only historical cars that have participated in the Dakar in the past, but also vehicles from the former group B to be placed on the start. And the 130 LR fulfills this, because it was a machine of the former lower category B/9.
The Škoda with Klymčiv behind the wheel can also be seen at this year’s Dakar, where it is exceedingly successful. In the fifth stage, he got to the top of the running order of the Dakar Classic category.
Ducks on Dakar
Among other things, the Czech women’s crew, consisting of Barbora Holická and Lucie Engová, is competing in the category with Klymčiw, who fielded the famous duck, a Citroën 2CV, as part of the unconventional celebration of 75 years since the start of production of this car.
The duck has already participated in the Dakar in the past, but not in its beginnings, but in 2007. The car was put into the race by brothers Georges, Philippe and Gilles Marques, members of the French club Citroën 2CV and Méhari.
They started the Dakar with a duck made in 1963, which was properly modified for the competition. It received a reinforced body and modified chassis, the engine was boosted to 74 kW. Unfortunately, however, the crew did not reach the finish line, they were stopped already in the fourth stage by technical problems with the rear axle.
Rolls at Dakar, which wasn’t quite rolls
From the opposite end of the price spectrum comes the Rolls-Royce Corniche, which participated in the Dakar Rally in 1981 as one of the 170 cars entered at the time. This participation was based on a bet, the millionaire Thierry de Montcorgé liked the African competition so much that he bet with his friends that he would participate in the Dakar with a Rolls-Royce.
Although, it wasn’t quite a real Rolls-Royce. The basis of the used car was a special tubular frame, on which plastic parts were placed, so that the result resembled the Rolls-Royce Corniche as much as possible. In addition, a forked eight-cylinder engine from Chevrolet combined with an all-wheel drive system from Toyota worked in the guts. The special took 2,000 hours to build.
Even the rolls, or rather the replica of the luxury coupe, did not reach the goal, at least officially. During the competition, the car was disqualified because the crew did not manage to fix a steering fault in time. However, this did not prevent de Montcorgé from continuing outside the official ranks. In the end, he really made it to his destination, the Senegalese Dakar.
Dakarská Lada Niva i Samara
In the 1980s, Soviet Lada cars were also regular participants in the Dakar Rally. Specifically, the Lada Niva participated in the very first year in 1979, when Pierre Minonzio took 28th place overall with it. Niva added more participations in subsequent years.
The Soviet off-road was later followed by the Lada Samara, behind which even the famous racer Jacky Ickx got behind the wheel! The Soviet hatchback was properly modified for competition conditions. Behind the Samara T3 was Jean-Jacques Poch’s Poch company, operating in France as an importer of Lada cars, which had previously built the Niva for the Dakar. The construction itself was provided by Oreca, a company with extensive racing experience.
However, practically nothing remained of the serial car. The basis of the Samara T3 was a spatial frame made of steel tubes carrying a Kevlar body, which reduced the weight and completely changed the dimensions of the car. The drive was provided by a rear-mounted 3.6-liter six-cylinder from the Porsche workshop with an output of 221 kW combined with a six-speed manual. For the needs of the endurance race, the unit relied on six fuel tanks with a total volume of 450 liters.
Taking part in 1990, the Lada Samara T3 took one stage win, Jacky Ickx was fastest of all in the 17th stage of the competition. In the end, it was a nice seventh place, the winner of that year’s Paris – Tripoli – Dakar was Ari Vatanen with a Peugeot 405. A year later, Didier Auriol competed with Lada Samara, among others, who finished fifth!
Group B place Dakar
The Porsche brand also became a literal legend at the Dakar in the second half of the eighties. The Cayenne was still a long way off, so the brand from Zuffenhausen did not field an off-road car at the Dakar, but a supercar in the form of the Porsche 959.
It was originally primarily developed for the World Rally Championship, however, following the cancellation of Group B, this project had to be discontinued. Not to be completely wasted, Porsche decided to use the 959 in the desert rally. It did not have such strict rules, for example regarding the mandatory number of production cars, which was ideal for Porsche. In Dakar, it replaced the Porsche 953, which dominated the competition in 1984 with René Metge behind the wheel. It was basically the development stage of the 959, which just couldn’t be completed in time.
The Porsche 959 failed to repeat this success in 1985. Not even one of the three seeded pieces finished the competition. Jacky Ickx tore the suspension, René Metge punctured the fuel line and Jochen Mass had a serious crash. Just one year later, however, Porsche got its taste, the 959 won a double. René Metge won again, followed by Jacky Ickx.
Rambo never finished the Lambo Dakar
Lamborghini has also participated in the Dakar Rally in the past. Logically, however, it was not one of his beautiful twelve-cylinder super sports with scissor doors, but an unconventional part of the brand’s history – the off-road LM002.
The participation of this twelve-cylinder monster in the Dakar was actually logical. The LM002 was originally created as a special for the army, but when this project did not work out, the car was redesigned for the needs of Arab sheikhs, who were supposed to frolic in the desert with it. The very concept of the car thus offered the possibility of a start at the Dakar.
In the second half of the 1980s, the car company itself was going to participate in the desert competition, which, in the era of its founder Ferruccio Lamborghini, refused to participate in racing series. However, after changes in ownership, the new owners – the Mimran brothers – changed their minds. The result was a modified LM002 with a strengthened twelve-cylinder, a modified chassis and a lighter construction. The famous rally racer Sandro Munari sat behind the wheel during the testing.
Unfortunately, the factory participation in the Dakar did not work out in the end due to the financial situation, at least the LM002 stood at the start of other competitions. The LM002 had to be used by private individuals in the Dakar Rally. In 1988, it was the Swiss World LM Racing Team, which, however, did not finish the competition. Sandro Munari also participated in the construction of this special. In 1996, Andrea Barenghi entered the LM002 in the Dakar, but he did not reach the finish line either. During the rally, he ran out of spare parts when he had to change shock absorbers several times, unable to handle the high weight of the vehicle.
As it was said in the introduction, the Dakar Rally race has been attended by a whole galaxy of cars during its existence. Among them was the Renault Duster, to promote the sale of this car when the Dakar was run in South America. In the past, SsangYong also participated in the rally, which used the names Tivoli or Rexton for its specials, although these cars had little in common with the production ones.