DAKAR 2022 | WHO TO WATCH
The Dakar is a cross-country style rally and one of the most difficult motorsport events in the world. Cross-country rallies also known as “Rally Raid” events, consist of timed off-road stages called Specials and transit sections which move the competitors between specials and the service camp known as the Bivuoac. At several times during the event, the Bivuoac will move to different locations requiring the entire population of the rally including organization assets and team service vehicles to the new location.
The 2022 Dakar Rally consists of 12 stages over 14 days and a staggering 5,204 miles (8,375 km). Drivers and riders must navigate vast chains of dunes, tracks, and rocky areas. The 44th edition of the Dakar will also double as the opening round of the FIA and FIM World Rally-raid Championships for cross-country rallying.
WHO TO WATCH:
Austin "AJ" Jones:
Eighth on his first attempt in 2020, and second in 2021 after leading the race four days before the finish, Austin Jones continues to rise. The talented 25 year old American spent his childhood learning the ins and outs of racing from his father, Jesse, who has been competing in desert events for the past 20 years and runs the Jones Motorsport team. In 2018 Austin got behind the wheel himself after spending a year as his dad's co-driver. In his first full season, Austin teamed up with Bryce Swaim and took the SCORE International Championship by storm, claiming victories at the Baja 500 and Baja 1000 in the Trophy Truck Spec class. He took his first steps in rally raid towards the end of 2018 and quickly made his mark. Having just secured the FIM T4 World Cup, Austin now shifts his focus on winning one of toughest races in the world.
"To win the Dakar or a championship you need to combine similar ingredients: a good car, a good navigator, a good team and lots of consistency. Once again there’s going to be some tough competition in our class from the likes of ‘Chaleco’ Lopez and my teammate Aron Domzala so a bit of that other essential ingredient ‘luck’ wouldn’t go amiss either!”
Francisco “Chaleco” López Contardo is undoubtedly one of the greatest Dakar stars that South America has produced, who made his debut in 2007 when the rally took place in the African deserts. In seven participations in the bike category between 2007 and 2014, the Chilean idol twice finished on the podium with third-place finishes in 2010 and 2013. In 2011 he finished fourth, while the last four ended in retirement, totaling 11 stage victories. After a five-year hiatus, “Chaleco” returned to the Dakar in 2019 in a new category, the side-by-side, making a quick adaptation and winning the title in Peru. In 2020, now on Saudi soil, the native of Curicó finished third with two stage victories. In the last edition, “Chaleco” was dominant, taking five stage wins and winning both the light vehicle and SSV category. He took the lead on stage six, lost the lead due to a mechanical failure and regained it on stage nine. Once again, his navigator will be veteran Juan Pablo Latrach -who is making his ninth Dakar appearance after an intense year of competition- on the latest generation Can-Am XRS prepared by South Racing. Enthusiastic about a route that promises a lot of “off-road”, champion Chaleco Lopez comes to his eleventh Dakar to give his best, with his rough and tumble style, in one of the most competitive categories of the rally.
In 2022, Gerard Farrès will take part in his 15th Dakar, the fourth behind the wheel of an SSV. The Manresa native is one of the leaders of the category in Spain. In 2006, he made his Dakar debut in Africa on a motorcycle. He finished 16th among the 119 riders in that edition, which garnered him rookie of the year honours. Step by step he climbed up the ranks, after riding in support for some of the big names of the time, he made headlines in 2017, finishing 3rd overall in the motorcycle category with the Spanish HIMOINSA team. Two years later, and another top 5 finish, he swapped two-wheels for four to venture into SSV with South Racing and Can-Am. After his debut in 2019 with a sensational second place, he helped his team to victory in the following two editions, now in Saudi Arabia. This year, he severed ties with Armand Monleón and will have a new co-driver with whom he will make his debut on 1 January in the Prologue of the 44th edition of the toughest rally in the world. But Farrès arrives with his desire and enthusiasm intact. A competitor with a broad smile even on the darkest of days, after hours of repairs in the middle of the desert, to try to complete a stage. The Spaniard says he never thought he would be able to do the Dakar in a car, and his objective now is to gain more experience and help the South Racing Can-Am structure maintain its recent dominance in the T4 category (light production vehicles).
The Polish duo, Aron Domzala and co-driver Maciej Marton, enjoyed their best run to date in last year's rally, finishing third in the SSVs behind Francisco Lopez and Austin Jones. In 2022, all three crews will be competing under the banner of the Can-Am Factory South Racing team, but that won't stop them trying to outdo each other on the Saudi sands! Considering he only took up rally raid in 2015, the 32-year-old has quickly established himself as one of the best in the business. He began his driving career at the Barborka Warsaw Rally in 2008, going on to win the class 5 Lithuanian Championship in 2013 and compete in the Junior WRC in 2014. Once he went offroad, he won the T3 class at the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies in 2016, then finished third in the T1 class in 2017. With his undeniable talent and growing experience, Aron clearly has what it takes to stand on the top step of a Dakar podium.
“It will be very interesting to see the internal fight on our team! There are lots of good drivers, especially with last year's podium: Lopez, Jones and us. They will be very strong, and there are a couple of other crews fighting for the win. We want to improve, for sure. The aim is first place, we're not interested in anything else!”
Molly Taylor will be one to watch in the T4 SSV class as she attempts her first Dakar. At only 33 years of age, she’s travelled the world and competed in some legendary races. Starting with traditional rallies in her home country of Australia, Molly then raced in Great Britain, Europe (ERC), and WRC, before becoming the first female and youngest winner of the Australian Rally Championship. The Dakar will be a whole new world for Molly who will be part of the Can-Am Factory South Racing team. To prepare for the rally, the Sydney born driver took part in the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge and Rally Ha’il. A good learning experience alongside co-driver Dale Moscatt who returns to the Dakar after finishing 32nd in the rally back in 2016 with Peter Jerie.
“The Dakar is all new for me. It’s so different. It’s just a massive adventure and challenge. It’s exciting but pretty daunting. When I announced that I was doing the Dakar, the reception back home and from my fan base was amazing. It’s such an iconic event. Initially my goal is to get to the finish but we aim the podium. Having a mission to win would be naive even if I’m very competitive. The dynamic is very different driving a T4 SSV. It’s super fun and you adapt rapidly so it gives you confidence. I’m actually not too worried. Of course it’s a physical challenge but I’m super interested by the test.”
South Racing Canam:
The South Racing can-am team has become one of the most dominate in cross-country rallies. They field production based can-ams in the T4 SSV category for both professional and gentlemen (arrive and drive) drivers.
This year, South Racing is servicing and supporting 21 Can-Am's out of 121 participants (T3 & T4) which represents the biggest team at Dakar as well as the first-ever Can-Am Factory supported race team (4 vehicles). 160 men and women from all over the world are currently working day and night to make sure our athletes are prepared, comfortable, and ready for the big race.
Francisco "Chaleco" Lopez and Navigator Juan Pablo Latrach WIN the Dakar Rally T3 class!