Dakar 2023: Ales Loprais takes sixth place after Prologue

31.12.2022

The InstaForex Loprais Team with Aleš Loprais and his crew finished Prologue without any problems. However, the Praga V4S DKR truck did not manage to take the desired fifth place.

On New Year's Eve, the forty-fifth edition of the Dakar Rally kicked off with a 13-kilometer Prologue, which ran alongside the Red Sea coast. The route led near the Sea Camp, a temporary home for all competitors on the opening days of the event. Despite the short and fast track did not allow teams to gain any big advantage, it was far from just a formality. The results of the Prologue will decide the starting order for the first stage.

Aleš Loprais, Jaroslav Valtr jr., and Petr Pokora finished in sixth place out of 55 crews in the Truck category. They lost out to Dutch driver Victor Versteijnen in the fifth position by only seven-tenths.

Dakar 2022

“I had wished to finish in the Top 5, which didn’t work out, but we’re glad to have such a warm-up. Now, we focus on tomorrow and the first real big Dakar stage. The first challenge, as the real marathon event begins,” Aleš Loprais said.

Finishing in the Top 5 in the category is very useful for all the top Truck crews. That applies not only to the Prologue but to every stage, as such a result gives a huge advantage in better track position for the following day. As part of the World Rally-Raid Championship rules, which Dakar Rally is a part of for the second year in a row, every Truck crew that finishes a Dakar stage (including the Prologue) in the top five, gets to start the following stage right behind the first 40 cars, and with one-minute gaps.

Meanwhile, other trucks are put in the next group, where they mix with the rest of the cars and buggies. The starting order is then based on the stage time from the previous day (in this case from the Prologue) and each vehicle starts in a 30-second window.

It means that while Versteijnen will get to start in 45th position overall on Sunday, one minute behind Martin Šoltys (fourth in the Truck category in the Prologue), Loprais will follow in 115th position, more than half an hour behind the Dutch driver. And it brings a complication as he will face much slower or less experienced crews with cars and buggies. It also means that in dusty areas, there might be a much thicker screen and that simply will not disappear when there are just 30-second gaps between vehicles.

However, that also is part of the Dakar Rally, and the InstaForex Loprais Team remains positive.

“We’re only half happy because we wanted that Top 5 result. But the most important thing for us was not to make any needless errors, and we avoided that. The organizers warned us several times that they’re going to be strict with penalties for abusing track limits and leaving the track with all four wheels. And it was a real risk, as it was pretty tight for trucks sometimes. But we were careful, and we remained clean,” the crew mechanic Petr Pokora said.

“For me, it was rather different than usual. Instead of watching navigation devices, I kept my eyes on the route ahead, and I had been telling Aleš what was coming up on the next part of the route. The real navigation starts tomorrow. The most important thing is that there is an excellent atmosphere within our crew and the whole team. And we’re on the same wavelength again, just like last year,” Jaroslav Valtr jr. added.

On Sunday, January 1, the Dakar Rally 2023 truly begins, with an opening long loop stage around the Sea Camp. The crews will face 603 kilometers in total, with a 368-kilometer special. The route is going to offer a mix of sand, gravel, and rocks. And at the very end, also the first dunes.

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