Heels on Wheels team’s Dakar entry delayed to 2024

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Credit: Heels on Wheels

Heels on Wheels, a Czech team hoping to be the first fully consisting of women amateurs to compete at the Dakar Rally, has pushed back their plans a year to 2024. The team had hoped to enter a Can-Am Maverick at the 2023 Rally in the T4 category with Lenka Hlavatá and Gabriela Budínová as driver and co-driver, respectively.

“Whether it’s personal plans, business or any project, you always need a little bit of luck to go along with determination and hard work. And our drop of luck was needed elsewhere more this year,” said Hlavatá. “Until the last moment, we believed that our dream would come true. Literally at the last minute, together with Gabi, we decided not to participate in the current edition of the Dakar Rally.”

A myriad of factors affected the decision to back out for 2023, with one of the biggest being budget. According to Hlavatá, much but not all of the finances had been accounted for, and racing without fully making up the budget “would mean compromising the quality of the experience for our fans and partners, which we didn’t want.

“The example we want to set is primarily about an honest and responsible approach. The fulfillment of dreams should bring joy, not that it will happen ‘at any cost’, at the expense of something or someone else.”

The team has been established in 2020 but was unable to get off the ground due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Efforts to gear up for 2023 were hindered by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Despite the challenges, they conducted various tests throughout the year.

“We were already fanned by the hot desert simoom, but reason and responsibility won out this time. However, it does not mean that we are giving up on our dream,” added Budínová.

Hlavatá is the executive director of the Czech consulting firm HPCG. While she was an automotive enthusiast from her youth, her interest in racing developed when she was in her early thirties. Much of her motorsport has been in rally and hillclimb.

Budínová previously raced at Dakar in 2018 and 2019 on a Bike under the name Gabriela Novotná. She was the first Czech woman to run the Rally, suffering a collarbone injury in a crash in 2018 before finishing the 2019 edition. Despite stopping her riding career after starting a family, she decided to return to racing as a co-driver as she enjoys the sport’s navigation aspect.

Once succesfully at Dakar, Heels on Wheels would join a small list of all-women teams to run the race. In 2022, Mercé Martí and Margot Llobera raced in T3 as CMR Group Women Dakar Team, an affiliate of FN Speed Team. For the 2023 Rally, X-raid Team will field two entries with female drivers and co-drivers as Annett Fischer and Annie Seel team up in the #307 while Martí and Lisette Bakker share the #323. The Checkered Flag interviewee Amy Lerner has run the Dakar Classic alongside Sara Bossaert. SHERO Rally Team, a female-based operation in the Middle East led by Iole De Simone, also has Dakar aspirations.

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Justin is not an off-road racer, but he writes about it for The Checkered Flag.
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