Ales Loprais: I'm expecting hard and tough Dakar

17.12.2019

Less than four weeks are remaining before Aleš Loprais will start his fourteenth Dakar Rally. But even despite his vast experience, he is heading into the unknown. The most famous rally raid in the world has moved again after eleven years – from South America to Saudi Arabia. The organisers have also prepared some rules changes and Instaforex Loprais Team will debut the new Praga V4S DKR.

It took seven months to build the new truck. Instaforex Loprais Team has used its proven concept of a bonneted truck with a central tube and independent suspension. But there are also many new innovations, with the most important ones being a new engine and an automatic gearbox.

Praga has become a new key partner of the Dakar project and lent its name to the race truck.

“Praga and Instaforex Loprais Team have been working together for some time already. This year, we’ve decided to fully join forces and we hope that this project has a bright future ahead,“ says Jan Martínek, a technical director of Praga Cars company.

“Praga V4S DKR is a beautiful machine. The Praga brand has been focused mostly on designing sportscars for circuit racing and we often hear praises for our R1 design. But thanks to the new Dakar special, we have definitely added another design star.”

The first-ever Rally Dakar in Saudi Arabia will be a big and thorough test for the new machine.

“I’m convinced, that despite moving to a new destination, the organisers will want to show that it’s still the toughest motorsport event in the world. I’m definitely expecting a hard and tough Dakar. And it’s not just about the route. We’re going to face very low temperatures, it will be about 0°C during the night, with sunset around 4:30 pm. That all will make the service very difficult. We will be driving across huge open areas where it is so easy to make an error in navigation. But it’s the same for everyone and the whole starting field will be much closer than in the past when the race kept visiting the same places and bigger teams knew all the areas very well,” says Aleš Loprais.

“Once again, Kamaz will be a benchmark for everybody. They’re unbelievable professionals, who aim only for the win. Others will try to match them again, but I welcome it. The trucks category wouldn’t be so interesting without them.”

Less than four weeks are remaining before Aleš Loprais will start his fourteenth Dakar Rally. But even despite his vast experience, he is heading into the unknown. The most famous rally raid in the world has moved again after eleven years – from South America to Saudi Arabia. The organisers have also prepared some rules changes and Instaforex Loprais Team will debut the new Praga V4S DKR.

“We want to try the new truck and enjoy it at the same time. It’s well known that we never go to Dakar without ambitions, but we won’t talk tough and go for any specific goals. The whole team will go racing with humbleness. Anything can happen, but I’m leaving with a good feeling,” says the 39-year old driver, whose crew will play a role of the official ambassadors of the Czech automobile association (AČR).

“I’m glad that AČR has become a partner of such iconic brands like Praga and Loprais. Apart from keeping our fingers crossed and hoping for the best result, we also try to secure ambassadors a reserved space in media, especially in the Czech Television. That is the main sense of our cooperation,” explains Jan Šťovíček, a president of the Czech automobile association.

Proven Teammates but a New Line-Up

Petr Pokora will take on the role of an onboard mechanic. For the 40-year-old Czech co-driver from Plzeň, it will be his fourth start at Dakar Rally. His best result so far is from the last Dakar Rally in Peru, where he and Loprais finished fifth in the trucks category.

“We have passed three successful tests, where nothing fell out of the car, despite we expected something could happen. I don‘t know whether that’s good or bad, but hopefully good! Especially if it stays the same even during the race. We’ve packed things that we know that there is a risk of losing or destroying. But it was impossible to make spare parts for everything in such a short time,” says Petr Pokora, who played a big role in building the truck. He spent most of his time from Spring to November in Instaforex Loprais Team workshop in Frenštát.

“I think that the car works perfectly. Aleš likes automatic gearbox and fully uses its advantages. He can basically just turn ‘the little wheel’ and stay focused on the important stuff.”

Khalid Alkendi will be a team’s navigator, a 46-year-old from the United Arab Emirates took part at Dakar Rally three times in South America between 2011 and 2013 and finished twice on the podium in production cars category (T2). In 2017, he was Loprais’ navigator at Silk Way Rally.

Despite Loprais, Alkendi and Pokora worked together individually before, the 2020 Dakar Rally will mark their first race together as one team. They drove together only during the testing in November.

Head-On into the New Year

The 2020 Dakar Rally will take place from January 5 to January 17 in Saudi Arabia under the leadership of a new rally director David Castera. The route, planned from Jeddah to Al Qiddiya, is 7,856 kilometres long, out of which 5,097 kilometres will be incorporated into special stages. Three-quarters of the route take place in the sand or sandy tracks of various natures.

2020 Dakar

Instaforex Loprais Team brings eleven people to Dakar, including two assistance trucks and one Mercedes-Benz X press car. The team leaves to Saudi Arabia on December 31. On New Year, the team will pick up everything in a port and set off to a two-day test in the desert. The ceremonial start kicks everything off in Jeddah on Saturday, January 4, with the first stage taking place on Sunday.

Did You Know That…

…Aleš Loprais is one of the three Czech competitors taking part in 2020 Dakar Rally, who already tried the iconic race not just in South America but in Africa as well?

Apart from him, there are only two more drivers with a similar experience – Josef Macháček and Miroslav Zapletal. Aleš Loprais raced in Africa back in 2006 and 2007 and between 2009 and 2019 he never missed any of the eleven Dakar Rallies in South America.

…Aleš Loprais is the only Czech truck driver taking part in 2020 Dakar Rally, who already managed to finish on the podium?

Back in 2007, when Dakar visited Africa for the last time, he finished in third place with Petr Gilar and Tatra 815 truck. In South America, his best result was the fourth place in 2015 with MAN truck. Whenever Aleš Loprais makes it to the finish line at Dakar Rally, he is never outside of top seven in the truck category.

…Aleš Loprais is also the only Czech truck driver taking part in 2020 Dakar Rally, who managed to win a stage?

He finished nine times with the fastest time of the day. From the Czech truckers, only Karel Loprais, Aleš‘ uncle and the 6-time Dakar Rally winner, has better statistics.

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