DakarNASCAR Whelen Euro Series

Buggyra Racing ends NASCAR Euro Series season to focus on Dakar 2023

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Credit: Bart Dehaese/NASCAR Whelen Euro Series

Buggyra Racing initially began the 2022 NASCAR Whelen Euro Series season with the intention of fielding two cars for twins Aliyyah and Yasmeen Koloc, but those plans have been shelved after four of six rounds as the team prepares for the 2023 Dakar Rally. Consequently, the team will not run the final two race weekends in Belgium or Croatia.

“After the last race at Autodrom Most, which saw a lot of unnecessary and dangerous contacts, the team management has decided to focus all its energy now firmly on the preparation of the 2023 Dakar Rally,” reads a team statement.

Aliyyah Koloc had been twenty-fifth in the EuroNASCAR PRO standings with a best finish of twelfth in Race #1 at Most, and fourteenth in EuroNASCAR 2 with two top tens. She and Yasmeen had intended to race the full schedule, but the latter withdrew before the opener due to injuries sustained in a 24H Series crash and focusing on Dakar. Their father Martin Koloc owns Buggyra.

“I am putting everything into my preparation for the Dakar Rally,” said Aliyyah. “It’s my long-term goal. And the risk of injury and therefore endangering this long-term goal is too high for me at the moment.”

Nicknamed the “Dakar Sistaz”, the Kolocs will make their débuts in Can-Ams in the T3 SSV category. To gain desert experience, they have been competing in the Fia World and Middle East Cups for Cross-Country Bajas alongside 2009 Dakar Quad and 2021 Light Prototype winner Josef Macháček and 2021 World Cup T4 runner-up Saleh Al-Saif. Al-Saif topped the Jordan Baja in February to become the first Light Prototype to win the overall in an FIA-sanctioned rally raid, with Aliyyah finishing second in T3.

For the 2022 Dakar Rally, the Czech team had Macháček in SSV, Al Saif in Light Prototype, and three-time Quad winner Ignacio Casale in T5 under the Tatra Buggyra ZM Racing banner. Macháček finished twenty-fifth in his category while Al Saif retired after four stages with mechanical trouble. Casale was twenty-seventh but his Tatra truck showed solid pace in the second half as he placed third in the final stage. Téo Calvet, who raced for Buggyra in the European Truck Racing Championship, was also scheduled to race a truck but hurt his wrist and tested positive for COVID-19.

While the team has fielded a Tatra truck at the Rally since 2013, they first ran an SSV arm in 2020 with Macháček who placed twenty-seven in class. The following year, Buggyra added ex-Formula One driver and sports car ace Tomáš Enge to the SSV stable, where he was tenth in class. Enge’s co-driver Rudi Briani, who will work with Aliyyah in 2023, previously served in the position with two-time World Rally Champion Miki Biasion and 1993 winner Bruno Saby.

The NASCAR exit coincides with Buggyra’s departure from the ETRC at season’s end. Despite enjoying success with eight driver’s and three team championships for three decades, the division was shut down as they wished to emphasise Dakar and endurance racing. Adam Lacko, who finished fourth in points, will remain involved with Buggyra for the next three years, while Calvet, winner of the season finale and the team’s swan song, will pursue drag racing in his native France.

The team’s Dakar lineup will be announced at the end of October. Al-Saif and Macháček have not revealed their plans, though the latter is expected to return as he has been involved with the team on the NASCAR side. Conversely, Casale announced his exit in September.

The 2023 Dakar Rally begins on 31 December 2022.

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