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With drive and humility to the “Dakar” – Yazeed Al-Rajhi and Timo Gottschalk ahead of the “Big Mama” of all desert rallies

3. January 2024

Further contributions

  • Ultimate challenge: the toughest of all rallies, the very best opponents
  • Ultimate route: 60 percent uncharted territory from al-‘Ula to Yanbu’ al-Bahr – 4,716 kilometers against the clock
  • Ultimate technology: latest generation of the highly decorated Toyota Hilux DKR, Overdrive Racing as a proven team

Al-‘Ula, Saudi Arabia (January 3, 2024) – And now: Dakar Rally! Yazeed Al-Rajhi and Timo Gottschalk start the world’s toughest rally on Friday. The goal is clear: a podium result – against extremely broad and well-positioned competition in challenging terrain. For their part, the runners-up can point to a remarkable series: Since reuniting as a duo in the FIA World Cross-Country Rally Championship (W2RC), they have always finished in the top three. For this series to endure, the “Dakar” requires not only the much-vaunted zero-fault job of man and machine, but also the luck of the brave. In this (self-) awareness, the Saudi-Arabian-Brandenburg duo takes on the task with drive and humility.

Humility: the route topic

The Dakar Rally will be held in Saudi Arabia for the fifth time in 2024. Familiar territory, then? No way! The organizer A.S.O. (Amaury Sport Organisation) has stated that 60 percent of the route is new. In principle, the type of landscape remains similar to that of previous years. The “Dakar” begins in the west of the country in al-‘Ula. The oasis in the province of Medina is located on the Incense Route, on the edge of the Harrat Uwayrid Reserve formed by black lava. The typical rocks form the character of the first few days – and plenty of opportunity for the route makers to sprinkle in the surprising and unknown. However, the further east the “Dakar” moves towards the “Empty Quarter”, the less rock and the more desert sand awaits the participants. The Empty Quarter, the largest and probably most hostile desert in the world, is one of the highlights of the route. On the split sixth stage on the sixth and seventh day, the grainy element is on the agenda in all colors, shades and flavors, before the rest day in the capital Riyadh provides a well-deserved break.

The second “Dakar” week leads back to the west and to the Red Sea, where the finish line awaits in Yanbu’ al-Bahr. But the second half of the desert marathon, like the first, will demand everything from man and machine. The riders with tricky dune crossings, full-throttle passages over gravel, trial-like scree sections or smooth but treacherous mountain passes. The co-drivers with a maze of countless gorges, hidden branches in dry river beds or precise navigation by compass direction in the ups and downs of the dunes. A total of 4,716 kilometers are set against the clock, with a total distance of 7,861 kilometers the “Dakar” 2024 remains relatively compact.

Drive: the competition topic

It is not for nothing that the Dakar Rally is regarded as the supreme discipline of the FIA Cross Country World Rally Championship (W2RC), of which it is the opening event for the third time. It is not only the ultimate in terms of distance and challenge, but also in terms of competition. And since the introduction of the T1-plus regulations, the balance of power has shifted – Mini, the most successful of the active brands with six victories to its name, is considered more of an outsider. Prodrive, who recently caused a stir with their own Hunter and achieved plenty of one-day successes, have strengthened their team with Nasser Al-Attiyah/Matthieu Baumel (QAT/FRA), who, as cross-country rally world champions, will be team-mates of record sprint rally world champion Sébastien Loeb and his co-driver Fabian Lurquin (FRA/BEL).

Audi, on the other hand, is making one last factory attempt to conquer the Dakar Rally with an electric drive. The complex system of electric drive and DTM combustion-generated on-board power will be on the grid for the two experienced duos Stéphane Peterhansel and his co-driver Edouard Boulanger (FRA/FRA) and Carlos Sainz/Lucas Cruz (ESP/ESP) as well as the up-and-coming Mattias Ekström/Emil Bergkvist (SWE/SWE). Toyota, winner of the last two editions, is relying on the veterans Giniel de Villiers/Dennis Murphy (RSA/RSA) and Lucas Moraes, who celebrated a sensational podium last year, navigated and coached by Timo Gottschalk. Overdrive uses customer Toyotas not only for Yazeed Al-Rajhi and Timo Gottschalk, but also for Juan Cruz Yacopini/Daniel Oliveras Carreras (ARG/ESP), among others.

Ford will line up with a works team for the first time in 2024, led by Juan “Nani” Roma/Alex Haro Bravo (ESP/ESP). As a team, M-Sport uses the Ranger in accordance with T1-plus regulations.

Technology: the Toyota Hilux DKR

Yazeed Al-Rajhi and Timo Gottschalk are competing in the Dakar Rally with the latest version of the Toyota Hilux DKR, which goes by the name of Evo T1U. In addition to tried and tested features, the winning car from the last “Dakars” and the FIA Cross Country Rally World Championship (W2RC) has been continuously improved with around 30,000 kilometers of use and testing. Among other things, it has grown in width by 100 millimeters, has a new cooling concept and a more efficient air conditioning system.

The experienced team from Overdrive Racing, who also support the logistics of the Toyota works team from Hallspeed, will act as the support team.


“The ‘Dakar’ in your own country is always something special. Even for the fifth time. I was allowed to stand on the podium once and I know how good that feels. But setbacks are also part of my ‘Dakar’ story. Only those who know both can appreciate success. We will do everything we can to stand on the podium again!”


“The organizers have announced a challenging ‘Dakar’. And the first glance at the route shows that there are plenty of surprises in store for us. In addition, the two-part special stage is a kind of XXL marathon stage. We will have to be on our guard right from the start but also at 100 percent to have a say in the podium places – and that’s exactly what we intend to do.”



… an attempt to express the fascination of the “Dakar” in figures. The mother of all desert rallies is not only the season highlight in cross-country rally sport, but also traditionally the first major motorsport event of the year. The coverage in traditional and social media is correspondingly extensive. The “Dakar” has a total of 4,200 hours of TV coverage in two weeks, about 13 per day. 70 TV stations in 190 countries broadcast reports from the Dakar Rally. A total of more than 1,000 media report on the Dakar Rally, 560 media representatives from 33 nations are on site during the two weeks. The approximately seven million followers of the “Dakar” in the social networks are reached through 250 posts daily on Facebook, Twitter (aka “X”), Instagram, TikTok and Weibo – managed by seven editors The official channels of the “Dakar” reach around 270 million video views. Timo Gottschalk’s social media reporting – written in English – focuses primarily on the reels, posts and threads on Instagram and can be found at

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