X-raid Team reveals 7-car stable for Dakar 2023 with newcomers Casale and Ferreira, 5 female pilots

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Credit: Ignacio Casale

The German X-raid Team, who has factory backing from Yamaha, will bring a seven-YXZ1000R Turbo Prototype fleet to the 2023 Dakar Rally to compete in the T3 category. Of the fourteen drivers taking part, five are women in what the team regards as a breakthrough for female drivers in rally raid.

Two of the cars have all-female duos: the #307 with Annett Fischer as driver and Annie Seel as co-driver, and the #323 for Mercé Martí and Lisette Bakker. Camelia Liparoti returns as the driver of the #311.

“I am very proud of our line-up,” said team director Sven Quandt. “I especially want to highlight that a total of five female pilots and one female mechanic are going to the Dakar. I am very pleased about this, as cross-country rallying has tended to be a male domain up to now. The team also includes João Ferreira, who won the European Cup for Cross-Country Bajas in the MINI JCW Rally. Ricardo Porém is also no stranger to us. Many eyes will certainly be on Ignacio Casale, who won the Dakar several times on the quad. We are also happy to see Ahmed Al-Kuwari, who was affected by technical problems last year, back.⁠

“Hopefully at the Dakar we will see good fights for top positions and some surprises.”

Fischer has raced at Dakar since 2019, finishing fourteenth in her début with Andrea Peterhansel (wife of Dakar winner Stéphane) before beocming Liparoti’s co-driver for the 2020 and 2021 editions. She returned to the driver’s seat in 2022 with Seel by her side and placed fifteenth in class.

Seel, nicknamed the “Rally Princess”, was a Dakar Bike competitor from 2002 to 2011; in 2010, she overcame a wreck that dropped her down a five-metre tomb to be the highest finishing female rider. She switched to four-wheelers in 2014. In March, she and Mikaela Åhlin-Kottulinsky won the Rally Jameel, the first all-women rally raid in Saudi Arabia.

Martí placed thirty-third in her first Dakar in 2022 with FN Speed Team. An airline pilot and flight instructor by trade, she competed in domestic rally raids in her native Spain. Her 2022 Rally co-driver Margot Llobera will serve in the same position for her uncle Albert Llovera in the T5 category for 2023.

Bakker arrives from South Racing, where she ran the final two World Rally-Raid Championship legs as Anja van Loon‘s navigator in T3.

Liparoti finished runner-up in T3 at the 2021 Dakar Rally, which she backed up with a sixth in 2022. She has raced the Rally since 2010, initially on a Quad and being the best performing women in that class for eight straight years before switching to SSVs. She won the FIM Women’s Cross-Country World Cup for six conseuctive seasons from 2009 to 2014. Xavier Blanco returns as her navigator.

She posted on social media, “How much love for deserts and races can someone have to get through so many difficulties? Happy and sad situations, injustices, dreams and broken hearts, adventures and encounters, smiles and lots of tears… I will be at the start of a new Dakar Rally, driving the Yamaha X-raid Prototype Turbo charged. A 3 year hard work and excellent collaboration between Yamaha Motor Europe and outstanding rally experts of X-raid. Very special THANKS to Eric de Seynes (team president) and Sven Quandt! I am very proud of my 2nd place overall in T3 in Dakar 2021 and 6th in Dakar 2022. With little horses, a difficult start, but with a giant heart. And it was worth racing every kilometre! Now our new Yamaha is ready to face the most extreme test, the Dakar! Together with my co-driver Xavi and the 6 crews team mates, we are Ready!

Even X-raid’s male drivers have stories of their own. Most notably, Ferreira will make his Dakar Rally début in the #322 fresh off winning the FIA European Cup for Cross-Country Bajas. Filipe Palmeiro moves over from the T1 class to navigate.

“I still can’t believe that I’m going to take part in the Dakar, it’s like a dream come true,” offered Ferreira. “For me it’s a great honour to have this adventure together with X-raid and Yamaha. My main goal in this first Dakar is to finish, enjoy the race, and continue learning. Fortunately, I will be competing with Filipe Palmeiro, who is a very good and experienced co-driver and will help me achieve our goals.”

Ignacio Casale, who won the Dakar Rally Quads in 2014, 2018, and 2020, will drive the #322. He arrives after spending 2022 in a Truck with Buggyra Racing. Co-driver Álvaro Leon follows him to X-raid Team.

“I have raced with Yamaha throughout my sporting career and it has always been my dream to get factory support,” said Casale. “I hope to win the Dakar again, this time in the T3 category and with Yamaha. X-raid has done an incredible job and developed a really competitive car together with Yamaha. Being in the X-raid Team is something incredible. It’s a team with more than twenty years of experience and many first places. I hope I can be able to live up to that. I know that with Álvaro and the team we can achieve great things and be very competitive. I feel that the Yamaha side-by-side is very strong and competitive and can keep up with the best.”

Al-Kuwari returns in the #321 after mechanical trouble doomed his 2022 Rally to a finish of thirty-second. Manuel Lucchese will finally get to be his navigator after missing the 2022 race with a positive COVID-19 test. Al-Kuwari was formerly a member of the Qatari shooting team like 2022 Dakar winner Nasser Al-Attiyah.

Ricardo Porém and Augusto Sanz comprise the #328’s duo. Porém competes in his Portuguese rally raid while Sanz does so in Argentina, the latter as a Bike rider.

The 2023 Dakar Rally begins on 31 December 2022.

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Justin is neither a NASCAR nor off-road racer, but he has covered them for The Checkered Flag since 2018.
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