TEAM RHIDE SA: Brian Baragwanath (left) and Hannes Saaijman, the two riders comprising Team Rhide SA, will take on the 2015 Dakar Rally for the first time. Image: Team Rhide SA
ISSY-LES-MOULINEAUX, France - The 2015 Dakar quad category has grown considerably in volume through recent races and the South American riders have made it almost a private club. However, Chilean Ignacio Casale, winner in 2014, will still have a hard time dealing with a pack of challengers…
Some, Wheels24 hopes, from South African riders...
They’ve transformed the Dakar! Among the changes that the event has experienced since its arrival in South America, the progression in quad rider numbers is one of the major trends. In 2009, 25 started the race. Almost double that figure, 46 to be precise, are expected in Buenos Aires on January 4.
50 STAGE WINS
Aanalysis of the spectacular increase in the quad pack reflects the strength of the discipline in Latin America: the three host countries will present 24 vehicles in the category and the total even increases to 33 when broadening the scope to the continent’s other nationalities.
The culture of “cuadriciclos” which is so hugely evident in the list of riders enrolled can also be seen at the height of competition. Apart from the success of Joseph Machacek, who extended his series of victories in 2009, the previous five titles have been won by Argentinean or Chilean riders.
South Americans have won 50 stages of the 82 contested over that period! Similarly, the title-holder is a perfect illustration of the very excellence of Latin American quad riders. After having discovered the Dakar in his family’s truck and then on a bike (40th in 2011), Ignacio Casale made a big entrance at the age of 23 in the quad category by taking fourth overall in 2012 before posing a threat the following year to the master of the discipline, Marcos Patronelli.
In 2014 the Yamaha rider achieved consecration, dominating his rivals from Stage 7 and finishing the rally with seven stage wins in the bag.
It would, however, be risky to designate Casale as the main favourite for his succession in light of the promising signs coming from the competition, starting with his fellow South American passport-holders.
NO MORE DROP-OUTS?
Uruguay’s Sergio Lafuente, provisionally in the lead in 2014, might not experience the mishaps that led to him dropping out of that race, just like Argentinean Lucas Bonetto, fourth in 2013 and also forced to withdraw in 2014. Another Argentinean, the youngest rider of 2014, Jeremias Gonzalez, put in a sensational performance by taking sixth at the age of 18 and intends to improve further.
The threats to Casale’s crown will not only come from his countrymen or neighbours. Rafal Sonik, a five-times top-five finisher and more significantly second in 2014 has no intention of giving up his quest for victory and Qatari Mohammed Abu Issa (fourth) displayed sufficient quality to aim for a place on the podium or even better this year.
AND THE LADIES...
Finally, the women’s race will not be limited this year to the lone figure of Camelia Liparoti, since the Franco-Italian rider will be accompanied this year by a rival, Paula Galvez, another Chilean who may come up trumps!