Isidre Esteve will participate in his second consecutive Dakar Rally with the Repsol Rally Team. The Spanish driver faces the tough challenge of improving the 21st position he achieved in the overall ranking for cars last year.“We're better prepared than ever before, and we have a chance at snagging a spot among the top drivers. It won't be easy, though, because our rivals have also made tremendous progress”, he stated during his team’s official presentation, which took place last Monday on the Repsol Campus in Madrid.
Dakar 2019 will mark the end of a very intense season in which Isidre Esteve and his co-driver Txema Villalobos have been able to see for themselves the significant advances in the BV6 prototype, thanks to the adapted controls on the steering wheel by Guidosimplex. Sodicars Racing's latest version is shorter with more efficient suspension and braking and BFGoodrich All-Terrain T/A KDR2+ tyres, which are ideal for the new Dakar route in Peru.
This year, the Repsol Rally Team has taken part in two races that count towards the Cross-Country Rallies World Championship, achieving very good results in both: the Baja Aragón and the Rallye du Maroc. In the Spanish race, Esteve came in third in the T1.2 (4x4 modified diesel) category and 16th in the overall ranking. He did even better at the Moroccan Rally — 9th in the overall ranking, second in his category, and the best result among Spanish car drivers.
“We are really excited because we have worked very hard on this prototype to make it more competitive and feel safer, so we can really explore its full potential. In Morocco, where the terrain is very similar to what we will encounter in Peru, I feel more comfortable driving this prototype, which means I can push it to its limits”, Isidre Esteve explained.
The next Dakar Rally, which will take place from 6th – 17th January, will have ten stages and 5000 km (3100 miles). Close to 3000 km (1800 miles) will be timed, and drivers will mainly be faced with dunes where navigation will be vital, an issue which the Spanish driver has prepared thoroughly: “We have really done our homework with navigation, and Txema Villalobos feels very confident, especially on the particularly tricky area of the dunes. If you add to that our experience in the last few years and the fact that we know Peru quite well, I believe it will not be as much of an issue as it was in previous races”.
In general terms, Isidre Esteve seems satisfied with the Dakar 2019 route, although he does expect to encounter perils: “It will be an intense, stressful, and very difficult rally from the get-go, 70% of which will be on sand dunes. There will be no easy stages and each kilometre will be extremely demanding. The marathon stage between Arequina and Tacna, just before the rest day, will be the trickiest with 800 km (500 miles) without assistance along areas where there is a lot of fesh-fesh”.
To take on this challenge, Isidre Esteve will once again have the unconditional support of his co-driver Txema Villalobos, his trusted mechanic David Pigem, and his partner and physical trainer Lidia Guerrero. “We are a great team. We have gained so much experience and I am sure we will be all the more efficient in overcoming any obstacles heading our way. We cannot wait to start!”, the driver gushed during the official presentation of the Repsol Rally Team in Madrid.
During the presentation, Lucas Angelini (Director of Lubricants, Asphalts, and Specialised Products at Repsol) reiterated that “Isidre Esteve represents the values Repsol also identifies with: hard work, perseverance, and teamwork”. In his speech, he explained how, at the end of each Dakar stage, different samples of the lubricants used are taken to be analysed by the Repsol Technology Lab with the aim of designing better products. Angelini wanted to finish his speech on a positive note: “The entire team is very optimistic, which makes us look to the future with confidence”.
Nicolas Martinez-Fresno (Director for Southern Europe, Vodafone Global Enterprise) explained the reasons behind the company jumping on-board with this project: “If there is anyone in the racing world which we can look to as an example of perseverance and what it takes to overcome difficulties, it is Isidre Esteve. Vodafone wished to participate in his sponsorship by providing technological solutions which enable him to be more independent, both as a professional driver and in his personal life too".
Araceli Ruiz (Director of HR and Communication, MGS Insurance) confessed that “this project captivated us from the start because it brings together two aspects which fit in nicely with our corporate philosophy: the tremendous challenge that is the Dakar race and a significant dose of personal strength and resilience. Those of us that are lucky enough to have known Isidre Esteve for years can say that it is impossible to find a better example of commitment and steely determination to overcome obstacles. He embodies the values we stand for perfectly”.
Josep Maria Lloreda (CEO of KH Lloreda) has traced back the ties between his company and the driver: “We embarked on this adventure with Isidre seven years ago, with the Smart Cushion. I have watched him become a better version of himself, and I am delighted that these other companies are collaborating on this project with him, a project he has worked on his entire life”.
Isidre Esteve’s infectious enthusiasm spread among those who attended the presentation just weeks before he has to face his fourth Dakar in a car; however, this will be his 14th time participating in the Dakar race, since he took part in 10 rallies in the bike category before he suffered a spinal injury in 2007. Eleven years later, the Spanish driver is once again among the motorsports elite, and is an example of how far perseverance will take you.