Isidre Esteve’s Goal: return to the elite group in Dakar 2018

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The Repsol Rally Team driver will be looking to fight his way into the top 20 with a powerful prototype with adapted controls on the steering wheel.

Isidre Esteve y su copiloto Txema posan frente a un gran bote de lubricante
Isidre Esteve’s Goal: return to the elite group in Dakar 2018

What I’m most excited about is achieving the same thing I did on my motorcycle: forming part of the small group of riders and drivers who fight to win each stage


Isidre Esteve

In his tireless desire to improve, Isidre Esteve faces a new challenge: to fight off the official cars and end up among the top 20 in the next Dakar Rally. To do this, the Repsol Rally Team driver will have a powerful BV6 prototype with adapted controls on the steering wheel. “My disability doesn’t keep me from being competitive at all”, acknowledged the Lérida-born driver during the presentation held this morning at the Repsol Campus in Madrid.

Isidre Esteve will start the Dakar having already “done his homework” after getting very good results in the Baja Aragón and the Morocco Rally. “We’re happy because during the year we’ve learned a lot about the car and how the team works together. It was important to get some miles under our belt because there’s been a huge change compared to last year and we needed to see how the prototype reacted on the dunes and how we felt during the race. In general, we’re very satisfied”, he acknowledged.

The driver from Oliana is chasing the dream of measuring himself against the best on a level playing field. And he gets closer every day. In fact, in the Dakar 2018 he’ll be able to drive the closest thing to an official car: a BV6 prototype prepared by Sodicars Racing. It’s a T1.2 (4×4 diesel off-road vehicle) featuring a BMW 3-litre twin-turbo diesel engine with an output of 340 HP, a tubular chassis and sequential gear changes. Its defining characteristic is that, due to the spinal cord injury that Isidre suffered, the controls have been adapted and installed on the steering wheel by Guidosimplex: “”I use my hands to control the steering, the brakes, the acceleration, and now the gears as well. It’s a lot of work, but I’ve gotten used to it more quickly than I thought I would. However, now that we’re driving faster, everything happens more quickly; dangers crop up more quickly and you don’t have nearly as much time to make decisions”.

Isidre esteve posa con su equipo y representantes repsol

After covering almost 2500 miles over the course of the year in training sessions and races, the driver from Lérida has been able to substantiate the significant qualitative leap he made with the new vehicle. “Now we have a real race car, with a tubular chassis, much more power, sequential gear changes and Donerre suspensions. The entire set is better and this will enable us to be more competitive”, said the Repsol and Onyx Seguros driver.

This evolution has allowed him to set himself even more ambitious goals than last year, when he finished 35th overall and 4th in the T1.S. category.: “What I’m most excited about is achieving the same thing I did on my motorcycle before the accident: forming part of the small group of riders and drivers who have a chance at  winning specials and races. We’re moving in the right direction, but we’re still a step behind the official teams. I’d like to be in the top 25 in the first week, and if we are closer to 15th place than 20th in the second week we will be very happy.”

To make this dream a reality, Isidre Esteve will have to successfully cover around 5900 miles in South America from 6 to 20 January. “The route is very different from previous years and I like the looks of it. Starting the race in Peru, with six days of dunes, two loops…I think it’ll be very interesting and it might even give us an advantage, after seeing how well our car handles the dunes. Then there will be two difficult stages in Bolivia, those will be very similar to what we saw in the last edition, and finally in Argentina we’ll have the chance to cover the areas that were affected by the floods last year. I can’t wait to get started”, he explained.

The positive experience he had during Dakar 2017 also plays in his favour, as he was able to test the operation of the Smart Cushion under extreme conditions. This device allows him to remain seated for many hours without damaging his skin. “Last year, we were able to verify the effectiveness of the cushion and the fact that my disability doesn’t represent a problem in really competing. Everything worked and that’s why we can now forget about my health and focus only on being competitive”, says Esteve, who will once again be accompanied by his co-driver, Txema Villalobos, his trusted mechanic, David Pigem, and his partner and physical trainer, Lidia Guerrero.

Isidre esteve con representantes repsol

They all attended the official presentation ceremony held this morning at the Repsol Campus in Madrid, where Lucas Angellini (Director of Lubricants, Asphalts, and Specialised Products at Repsol) expressed his pride in supporting Isidre Esteve “as a competitive and experienced driver, but especially as a person, because of the values he represents, values that Repsol identifies with: hard work, dedication, perseverance, teamwork, enthusiasm, and innovation. His foundation’s smart cushion project  is an example of success and is a great contribution to society”.

Angeline explained that “Dakar is one of the toughest races in motorsport, where we can put our products to the test. We apply everything we learn in high-performance racing in the design of our products. The reliability and flexibility of Repsol engine and transmission lubricants ensure optimal performance under the most extreme conditions, providing the greatest performance during elite racing”.

For her part, Araceli Ruiz (Director of Human Resources and Communication at MGS Seguros – Onyx) underscored that “MGS and Onyx Seguros have been with Isidre Esteve since he started on his project to return to racing and, in particular, to the Dakar, because we share his values of hard work, youth, and the spirit of perseverance. To us, Isidre represents an impressive personal example that serves as an inspiration for us to be increasingly competitive, provide the best service to our customers, and continue to develop our business project efficiently and competitively”.

Everything’s ready for Isidre Esteve to confidently take on his third Dakar in a car. He’s competed in a total of 13 Dakar races, including 10 on a motorcycle before suffering a spinal cord injury in 2007 after a fall in Baja Almanzora (Almería), where he fractured the T7 and T8 vertebrae. Since that day, the Lérida native has fought tirelessly, displaying a remarkable amount of perseverance that has enabled him to return to motorsport, his great passion.

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