João Costa will return to the Dakar Classic in 2024 and use the opportunity to pay tribute to his country’s heritage as he will race a UMM Alter.
Costa’s first and only Dakar Classic came in 2022 when he and Luis Santos restored a SsangYong Musso that ran the 1997 Dakar Rally with Patrick Tambay. Competing under the Blues Brothers DKR Racing Team banner, the duo successfully completed the race in eightieth overall.
He eventually aligned with Classic-UMM Team to prepare an Alter for the 2023 Dakar Classic, but elected to postpone the effort by a year as a team member was dealing with personal trouble. The programme is being headed by mechanic Carlos “Tucha” Barbosa and Luís Galvao.
The UMM Alter is the flagship vehicle of Portuguese metalworks company União Metalo-Mecânica. A French-designed 4×4 vehicle, it remains in use today by various police forces and even served as the popemobile for Pope John Paul II when he visited Portugal in 1991. It is also claimed to have finished every Dakar Rally that it entered during the 1990s.
Classic-UMM Team’s Alter was initially used by Francisco Esperto in the Troféu UMM championship. Others to pilot this specific Alter include Jorge Carpinteiro, José Silva, and César Fonseca.
Speaking to SportMotores, Costa hoped to “[show] thirty years later the robustness of the machines built in Portugal” and “pay homage to the Portuguese adventurers of the eighties, led by José Megre.” Megre competed in the World Rally Championship in the 1970s before going on to enter the Dakar Rally as a factory driver for UMM. In 1987, Megre organised the first cross-country rally in his home country with the Baja Portalgre 500, which is still a stop on the domestic championship Campeonato Portugal de Todo-o-terreno today.
The 2024 Dakar Rally begins on 5 January.