Dakar

Anja van Loon set for truck debut in Morocco ahead of 2024 Dakar T5 entry

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Credit: Van Loon Racing

Anja van Loon‘s Dakar Rally début went swimmingly as she finished fourteenth overall in the T3 category. However, while her Can-Am Maverick did not let her down, she aspires to compete in the massive trucks of the T5 class at the 2024 edition. To prepare her for such an effort, her first rally in a truck will be the Morocco Desert Challenge on 21–30 April. She will pilot an IVECO PowerStar for Team de Rooy in both races with an all-female crew as Floor Maten and Suzanne Peek respectively serve as co-driver and mechanic.

“The programme for this year is getting more and more shape,” said van Loon. “I will drive a number of races with the Can-Am, together with Floor, and also a lot of testing in Morocco with Suzanne. I am very much looking forward to it. Three women in the truck is unique in the Dakar Rally.”

She entered the Dakar Rally alongside her husband Erik van Loon, who raced in T1 for the family-run Van Loon Racing while Anja’s Can-Am was prepared by South Racing. Erik retired in what was his final Dakar Rally after breaking his back in a Stage #7 crash while sitting twelfth overall, though he intends to run the rest of the World Rally-Raid Championship while supporting his wife. Meanwhile, Anja’s fourteenth-place run included a best leg finish of seventeenth in Stages #5 and #13.

“When Erik asked me one day what was on my bucket list, I told him I wanted to do the Dakar in a truck,” Anja explained. “He said I had to start by doing the Dakar in an SSV to learn the ropes, so I’ve done ten rallies this year and will be switching to a truck afterwards.”

Van Loon, née van de Laar, first became interested in rally raid after working on the support crew of her late father Fried van de Laar alongside her brothers Ben and Jan. The brothers shared an IVECO truck at the 2023 Rally and finished seventh in T5.

Team de Rooy, a fellow Dutch outfit, won the T5 category with Janus van Kasteren. They represented three of the four highest finishers as Martin van den Brink and his son Mitchel respectively placed third and fourth under the Eurol Rally Sport banner. Along with Martin Macík Jr. in second, IVECOs swept the top four. IVECO is the only brand besides Russia’s KAMAZ—whose factory team was barred from the 2023 Rally—to win T5 at Dakar since 2009 with other victories in 2012 and 2016.

The Morocco Desert Challenge is not part of the W2RC, though has been used by competitors as additional training for the Dakar Rally.

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