The Audi RS Q e-tron is going to the Dakar Rally
© Kin Marcin/Red Bull Content Pool
Rally Raid

Dakar Rally 2022: here are the behind-the-scenes stories you need to know

With close to 300 entrants covering 7,500km, it’s impossible to know everything about the world’s most epic motorsports race. Here’s some insight that will make you feel like an insider.
By Josh Sampiero
5 min readPublished on
Part of this story

Dakar Rally

Learn the story of this incredible annual event, …

Stéphane Peterhansel

French driver Stéphane Peterhansel is a legend of …

FranceFrance

Carlos Sainz

Known as 'El Matador', veteran driver Carlos …

SpainSpain

Sébastien Loeb

French driver Sébastien Loeb's domination of the …

FranceFrance

Nasser Al-Attiyah

Nasser Al-Attiyah is the sporting hero of his …

QatarQatar

Mattias Ekström

Rallycross star Mattias Ekström is one of the …

SwedenSweden

Laia Sanz

Spanish rally-raid star Laia Sanz is used to …

SpainSpain

Mitch Guthrie Jr.

Following in the footsteps of his famous father, …

United StatesUnited States

Seth Quintero

A world champion before he was old enough to …

United StatesUnited States

Daniel Sanders

Capable of going very fast for very long …

AustraliaAustralia

Matthias Walkner

A former motocross rider, Austria's Matthias …

AustriaAustria

Kevin Benavides

Kevin Benavides’ historic ride at the 2021 Dakar …

ArgentinaArgentina
The Dakar Rally isn't just one big story, it's countless smaller ones. After all, that's what happens when more than 1,000 people (including drivers, riders and their support crews) line up to race nearly 7,500km across Saudi Arabian deserts. Every single one of them has put in a huge amount of work just getting there, and when there's that much on the line, there's bound to be drama.
It could be on the main stage from headline names like Sébastian Loeb, Stéphane Peterhansel and Carlos Sainz – or in the race-within-the-race as dozens of riders and pilots look to make their mark in the sand. We've picked out a few storylines we think you might want to keep an eye on – some big, some small – so read on to get a little dirt on Dakar.
01

The T1+ class is where the big battle will happen

For the last few years, X-Raid (Mini John Cooper Works) and Overdrive + Toyota Gazoo Racing have been battling it out in the premier class. They've been able to compete under two different sets of technical regulations for 2-wheel drive cars (buggies) and 4-wheel drive. In the last few years, the 4WD cars had to have smaller tires that were less resistant to punctures and a slimmer wheelbase. This year, they're allowed to upgrade to wider tires, a wider chassis and more suspension travel.
The 2WD buggies will retain the ability to deflate/inflate their tires from the cockpit to maximize efficiency and fuel consumption. To balance out the power delivery, the FIA will institute rules about the size of the intake restrictors.
Nasser Al-Attiyah and Mathieu Baumel racing at Hail Rally during stage three in Hail, Saudi Arabia on December 10, 2021.
Nasser Al-Attiyah is hoping to win the Dakar for the fourth time
Effectively, this means both teams are racing on new cars – leaving the potential for big shakeups in the leaderboard. Mini has won the last two Dakars – but Toyota's Nasser Al-Attiyah suffered more than 80 punctures in those two races. Could it make the difference and help him claim his fourth Dakar victory?
02

The new Audi RS Q e-tron

There's been a big buzz about the 671-HP Audi RS Q e-tron. This not-quite-electric, not-quite-combustion hybrid is a huge step in the research and development to bringing fully electric cars to the highest level of cross-country rallying. The car hasn't seen a race yet, but the gossip from this year's tests is that it's an absolute beast when it comes to performance. No matter what happens on the sand, it's sure to electrify (sorry) Dakar fans worldwide – especially with two top-class drivers like Peterhansel and Sainz, backed up by multi-class talent Mattias Ekström, now competing in his second Dakar.
03

Laia Sanz, the rider turned pilot who has serious skills and determination

Laia Sanz has one of the most impressive Dakar records in history: she's finished every stage for 11 years running. She's finally stepped off the bike to get behind the wheel – and while she's got a bit to learn, her navigation skills and endurance are probably already up there with the best drivers there are. Once she gets up to 'race speed' – watch out!
Laia Sanz posing at the finish line of the Hail Rally in Hail, Saudi Arabia on December 11, 2021.
Laia Sanz is making the switch from two wheels to four
04

Young guns on the run

The Dakar isn't an easy race to get to, as we've alluded to so many times before. You need a big budget to even make it to the start line – which historically has kept young racers out of the game. In recent years, that's changed, as the community recognizes the need for new talent.
Who are we watching? In the side-by-sides, Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team's Seth Quintero and Mitch Guthrie Jr. – both of whom have a Dakar under their belt and have put together fast stages over the last year. On the bikes, a young American named Mason Klein has proven to be a good navigator and consistently fast finisher – as well as his teammate Bradley Cox, whose father is Dakar legend Alfie Cox. Both are racing with Bas Dakar, a team that has served as an unofficial feeder to the factory teams.
05

Navigation and careful driving will reign supreme

As the level of competition gets higher, so do the speeds – and the risks. Race organizers are likely looking to contain top speeds by keeping the roadbooks tight and tough, with tricky navigation. There's no question speed still matters – but now more than ever, it's going to be about how fast you can read the roadbook. With these being delivered digitally, there's no chance to study and prep – it's find-your-path racing in real-time.
06

It's anybody's race on the bikes

Matthias Walkner performs during testing in Dubai, UAE on October 30th, 2021.
Matthias Walkner won the Dakar Rally in 2018
The past five Dakars have seen five different winners on the bikes and all of them are still racing. Those five – plus a handful of other skilled riders, both new (like Daniel Sanders) and experienced (like Nacho Cornejo) are all able to win this race. Red Bull KTM Factory Racing has four Dakar winners, racing on their brand-new bikes, including the winner of the last race, Kevin Benavides and the winner of the 2021 Cross Country World Championship, Matthias Walkner. Is a win guaranteed? In the Dakar, never.
07

What's guaranteed: an adventure

There are a few things we know for sure: the race starts on January 1, there will be lots of sand, it's going to be long and it's going to be hard. Ultimately, the appeal of the Dakar is not competitors racing in the controlled environment of a circuit, with a strict set of rules and controlled by racing stewards – it's entirely the opposite. It's where-will-you-go, what-will-you-do racing. If something is going to break, how will you fix it? It's a journey into the unknown and no matter what, it's going to be epic.
Part of this story

Dakar Rally

Learn the story of this incredible annual event, …

Stéphane Peterhansel

French driver Stéphane Peterhansel is a legend of …

FranceFrance

Carlos Sainz

Known as 'El Matador', veteran driver Carlos …

SpainSpain

Sébastien Loeb

French driver Sébastien Loeb's domination of the …

FranceFrance

Nasser Al-Attiyah

Nasser Al-Attiyah is the sporting hero of his …

QatarQatar

Mattias Ekström

Rallycross star Mattias Ekström is one of the …

SwedenSweden

Laia Sanz

Spanish rally-raid star Laia Sanz is used to …

SpainSpain

Mitch Guthrie Jr.

Following in the footsteps of his famous father, …

United StatesUnited States

Seth Quintero

A world champion before he was old enough to …

United StatesUnited States

Daniel Sanders

Capable of going very fast for very long …

AustraliaAustralia

Matthias Walkner

A former motocross rider, Austria's Matthias …

AustriaAustria

Kevin Benavides

Kevin Benavides’ historic ride at the 2021 Dakar …

ArgentinaArgentina