2023 Dakar Rally: Erik van Loon remains committed to 2023 being final Dakar

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Credit: Van Loon Racing

Erik van Loon hoped to end his Dakar Rally career on a strong note in 2023, but it instead ended with his Toyota Hilux Overdrive overturned after seven stages. Despite the abrupt and disappointing finish, he is adamant with it being his final start in the legendary race.

Van Loon has raced at Dakar since 2009, and he set 2023 as his last try in what was to be a sweet comeback and swan song after missing 2022 due to a positive COVID-19 test. He scored his best overall finish of fifth in 2015.

His 2023 Rally got off to a positive start when he finished second overall to fellow Hilux racer Nasser Al-Attiyah in Stage #2. Five legs later, however, his Stage #7 ended with his truck rolling multiple times. While he and co-driver Sébastien Delaunay were not seriously injured, van Loon was taken to hospital after reporting back pain.

“It was my thirteenth Dakar and I was going for my tenth finish. I had many beautiful moments, experienced great adventures and had special friendships from them. The Dakar Rally has often been hard for me, but has also given me a lot. It shaped me into who I am. Tackling, persevering, and achieving something together,” said van Loon.

“I think it’s a fantastic sport, but I now have more fun with the other rallies. These two weeks are extremely difficult and the risk is extremely high at this level. If you experience such a heavy crash, you will think about it carefully.

“Of course, you prefer to stop at your peak. In 2021, I dropped out after ongoing tech issues, so I wanted to look good in 2022. Due to the positive corona test, that was not allowed to be the case, so I entered Dakar 2023 after a good preparation. This time together with Anja, she wants to drive the truck in 2024.”

While van Loon prepares to close a chapter of his racing career, he plans to remain involved in rally raids. This motivation is partly driven by his wife Anja van Loon, who is making her Dakar début in the T3 class. Erik will stay in Saudi Arabia to cheer her on.

“I don’t want to say goodbye to this,” he continued. “Driving such a car or buggy is great to do, but if I then weigh the costs and the risk, I don’t think that’s worth the Dakar anymore. I don’t have to prove myself anymore.

“Normally you want to go home after a crash like this, to your wife and children. Anja is here and is happy with my help. My children know that I am always there for them, but when they hear or read that after such a crash I am taken to the hospital with a possible broken back, it makes you think. That’s not worth it to me. I’m going to help Anja to get to the finish line. She is doing great, in twelfth overall. That is much better than expected, I am very proud of her.”

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