The 2024 Dakar Rally‘s bike category will enjoy a triple Czech infusion as Orion – Moto Racing Group‘s trio of Dušan Drdaj, Martin Prokeš, and Jaromír Romančík have all been accepted for the race after their performances at the Rallye du Maroc in October. The trio will be making their Dakar débuts.
Prokeš is no stranger to Morocco, having raced the 2022 edition but failed to finish due to crashes. Fortunately, his 2023 attempt yielded better results as he and his team-mates each completed every stage. Romančík finished an impressive seventh overall in the Rally2 class, followed by Drdaj in twentieth and Prokeš in twenty-eighth.
“Compared to the Dakar, [Morocco] is a short but intense rally,” commented team manager Ervín Krajčovič after the third stage. “No one wants to underestimate anything, so they race for blood from the first meter. For the fact that the boys are running their first long-distance race, they are doing very well.”
Besides a top ten in his maiden World Rally-Raid Championship start, Romančík narrowly missed out on winning the Road to Dakar, which would have earned him free registration for Dakar, by just 7:35. Romančík led the Road to Dakar for the first three stages before a malfunctioning roadbook and crash in Stage #4 caused him to lose the top spot to Toby Hederics.
In missing out on the waived entry fee, Romančík—like many privateers heading to Dakar—is running a fundraiser to help pay for it. As of this article’s publication, it has generated 32,600 koruna.
The roadbook glitch also struck Drdaj, whose tablet shut down midway through the fourth stage. Drdaj finished sixteenth in Rally2 across each of the first three stages before improving to thirteenth despite the roadbook issue. He crashed on the final day and broke his sternum. Drdaj missed a waypoint due to his accident and was consequently slapped with a time penalty of two hours and fifteen minutes, dropping him to his final position in twentieth. He would have been eleventh if not for the time addition, just twenty-six seconds off of tenth-placed and fellow Czech rider Jan Brabec.
Prokeš opted for a more conservative approach as his best stage finish was twenty-fifth on the third day, though it was still enough to not receive any penalties like his colleagues.
Orion – Moto Racing Group is a Czech operation that mainly competes at Dakar and Morocco. For the 2023 Dakar Rally, the team prepared a Rally2 KTM bike for Milan Engel and one in the top-level RallyGP class for Martin Michek. Engel retired after five stages with a mechanical failure exacerbated by poor fuel, while Michek reached the finish eleventh overall. The team was the highest-finishing non-factory outfit among all bikes.
The 2024 Dakar Rally commences on 5 January.