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2011-12-13 10:43

STILL A THREAT: The winner of the 2011 Dakar, Vladimir Chagin, on his way to another monumental win. Image: AFP

The truck category of the 2012 Dakar Rally will offer fresh opportunities for the usual challengers as the drivers who dominated the last decade of Dakars won’t be lining up at the start on January 1, 2012.

Vladimir Chagin and Firdaus Kabirov, Kamaz drivers who between them had won nine of the last 11 Dakars, retired after the 2011 race,  seemingly offering breathing space to the other competitors in the truck category.

But the Kamaz drivers remain favourites for victory: four Russian trucks occupied the top four spots in 2011 after winning 12 of the 13 stages... In 2012, promising young drivers Eduard Nikolaev and Ayrat Mardeev Jnr will be at the steering wheel while Chagin, who won the 2011 truck category, has over the past year devoted his time to managing the team.


German Franz Echter, fifth in 2011, is seen as a genuine title contender in 2012 behind the wheel of his MAN truck. He said: “If it wasn't for Kamaz, I would have won!”

Another driver worth watching will be Gerard de Rooy and his Iveco team that has been bolstered by the signing of Hans Stacey, the winner of the 2007 Dakar, and Miki Biasion, former world rally champion and recent winner of the Rally of Morocco.

The biggest threat to team Kamaz, however, looks to be the winner of the Silk Way Rally, Ales Loprais and his Tatra, who managed to sneak in a special stage win in the 2011 edition of the Dakar.

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