For the third year running, Isidre Esteve will take part in the Dakar Rally with the Repsol Rally Team. The rider from Oliana will arrive at the event ready to fight for his best result since he started competing with the BV6 prototype. Today, at the presentation held at Repsol Campus in Madrid, he revealed that his goal is to finish in the top 15.
Dakar 2020 is littered with new developments, as it is being held for the first time in history in a country in Asia: Saudi Arabia. The race will take place from 5 to 17 January and consists of 12 demanding stages, which will take all the participants to the limits of their possibilities. The route is over 7800 km long, of which some 5000 will be timed.
Isidre Esteve has spent the entire year preparing for this new challenge with his co-driver Txema Villalobos and the rest of the Repsol Rally Team. For months, they have continued to work on his category T1.2 4×4 (modified diesel 4×4 all-road vehicle) to make it more competitive and better suited to the features of the Saudi terrain. To help it get over dunes, the height of the car has been raised and BFGoodrich KDR 2 tyres fitted with the new compound for sand and rocky terrain.
Esteve will again use a Nubolo smart cushion and Guidosimplex adapted controls on the steering wheel. These two devices allow him to compete on equal terms with his rivals, despite his spinal injury, and have helped him to become a great example of determination.
“This will be our third year with the same car and during this time we have been adding improvements to get the best performance possible out of it. In the Rallye du Maroc in October we took a great leap forward and finished in 12th place, which was a great achievement because there was a very high level of participation,” said an optimistic Isidre Esteve, who will be competing in his fifth Dakar in a car and 15th in total, if we count his ten rallies on a motorbike before his accident in 2007.
The driver from Oliana, placed 21st in the overall ranking in the last two editions, confessed that this year the change of scenery is an added incentive, quite apart from the sport: “We are really looking forward to getting to know a new country. The Dakar will be the first big international sporting event held in Saudi Arabia and that is a clear indication of its willingness to open up to the world. This event gives them a great opportunity to take that first step and that is very good news.”
At a competitive level, Isidre Esteve is convinced that it will be a brilliant spectacle. “It will be a great race, very similar to those held previously in Africa. There will be a lot of very long stages compared to those in recent years, with more kilometres, a lot of desert, and some relatively fast stretches. In South America we raced in summer, which made the sand soft. In contrast, it will be winter in Asia and the sand will be much harder so we won’t be facing such great difficulty. In general, I really like the route and the scheduling of the new Dakar managed by David Castera”.
Another big difference from previous editions will be the innovative roadbook, which debuted at the last Rallye du Maroc and counts towards the World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies. “Being handed your roadbook a few minutes before starting some stages with the hazards already marked is a good move because it will help to equal things out for all the participants. On those days, everyone will have the same information at the same time and that will make a very significant change,” he said.
In fact, Dakar 2020 will be full of opportunities that Isidre Esteve hopes to take advantage of with the support of his team. “It’s a privilege to be part of the Repsol Rally Team. The sponsors allow us to enjoy this race and to have competitive material with which to continue to improve this project, as we go for ever more ambitious goals. This year, our challenge will be to fight to finish in the top 15. We know it won’t be easy, even if we have improved, because the competition is even bigger, but we have the strength to try.”
During the presentation, Alfonso Fernández de Gabriel, director of Marketing and Advertising for the Repsol Commercial Businesses, recognised that “for Repsol it is a real challenge to take part in one of the most demanding competitions in the motorsport, as the nature of these races definitely demands the use of better products in terms of quality and innovation.” After highlighting the involvement of Isidre Esteve in the entire process of improving its products in recent Dakars, he was convinced that his participation in the next edition “will be a real success”.