Dakar

2024 Dakar Rally: Tobias Ebster’s rally renaissance continues with Malle Moto win

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Credit: Antonin Vincent/DPPI

Tobias Ebster‘s uncle Heinz Kinigadner was a rally raid icon in the 1990s, but was never able to cross the Dakar Rally off his list of achievements. Twenty-four years after his last start, “Mini Kini” carried on the family legacy.

Ebster dominated the Original by Motul (also known as Malle Moto) category for riders competing without assistance from teams, beating runner-up Jérôme Martiny by over two hours and finishing eighth in the larger Rally2 class. He got off to a fast start by winning the Prologue, then claimed all but two legs including a Stage #5 showing in which he beat everyone in Rally2, edging out then-overall leader Romain Dumontier by thirty-two seconds.

The win adds to a young but already very impressive rally raid career for the Austrian, who only started competing in them in 2022. Although fairly new to the discipline, Ebster quickly made an impact when he won Rally2 outright in his World Rally-Raid Championship début at the 2023 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge to clinch his ticket to Dakar. Although his Dakar dress rehearsal later that year at the Rallye du Maroc was cut short by a dislocated shoulder moments after starting the race, he recovered in time to pick up where he left off.

His health continued to take a beating during the Dakar as he dealt with rib pain and nausea, prompting him to take painkillers when able such as during refuel points. He was one of many victims of the infamous 48-hour Chrono Stage, crashing in a chott at KM 153, but won the stage nonetheless.

He is the only rider of those entered in OBM who is also earning W2RC points, and leaves the Dakar seventh in the Rally2 standings.

“Three months ago, I injured my shoulder and had to be screwed together with three titanium screws. Not an optimal start for the preparation for the toughest rally in the world,” recalled Ebster. “Three weeks later, the next injury came. Fractured scaphoid… Another titanium screw added. Most had already written me off for the Dakar.

“I had only one goal in mind: Dakar Rally Début 2024. There were doubts of course, but giving up was simply never an option for me. Too much had been worked too hard in the past years for me to postpone everything now, and I didn’t want to either. I couldn’t ride a motorcycle from October until the start of the rally. I could only keep fit at home on the home trainer and with daily exercises. There were many sleepless nights.

“With crashes at the beginning of the rally, I didn’t make it any easier for myself with a bruised rib.. I was in pain every day, but I knew I wouldn’t give up. I had to motivate myself very often, ‘Come on, Tobi, you can do it,’ ‘Come on, it’s only 200km more, 100km,’ ‘You’re doing great, keep going, don’t give up!!’

“Now, after two weeks of hard work and little sleep, standing up here is simply overwhelming and something I haven’t fully realised yet.”

Martiny and Albert Martin were the only riders besides Ebster to win a stage. Martin, who returned to Dakar after skipping 2023 due to losing sponsorship, beat Ebster by twenty-two seconds to top Stage #4 while Martiny, a firefighter by trade, won Stage #7 more comfortably with nearly fifteen minutes on Ebster.

Emanuel Gyenes was technically the fastest Malle Moto rider in Stages #3, #7, and #11, but was not eligible for the win as the 2020 champion. Original by Motul is reserved for certain amateurs, excluding former class winners and those who finished top thirty among all bikes regardless of class, even if they do not race professionally; riders can still go solo if they wish, though they are categorised in the broader Rally2 alongside those with teams. Benjamin Melot and Javi Vega, respectively finished twenty-ninth and thirtieth overall in 2023, continued to be Malle Moto racers for 2024 despite officially being scored in Rally2 only; Melot’s time of 60:34:20 would have ranked him fourth in OBM while Vega’s 99:06:13 would be ninteenth. Should they return to Dakar on a bike in 2025, Ebster (twentieth) and Martiny (twenty-fifth) will not be eligible to race in OBM again and must move up to Rally2.

Gioele Meoni, the son of late Dakar legend Fabrizio Meoni, finished sixth in class in his maiden Dakar. Tiziano Internó, who crashed out in 2023, finished fourteenth two months after completing the Baja 1000, another legendary desert race.

As a class for racers without crews, Malle Moto riders truly faced the elements on their own and could only turn to fellow competitors for help. For example, Cesare Zacchetti got stuck during the Chrono Stage and was unable to get out until Vega arrived to pull him out; Zacchetti’s race took a more bizarre turn in Stage #11 when eventual car winner Carlos Sainz accidentally ran over his bike, though it suffered minimal damage.

Libor Podmol endured a brutal rally when he crashed in Stage #3 and was thrown against a rock, forcing him to get eight stitches along his right eye and wrist. Despite the injury, his bike was still in good enough condition to continue racing and he managed to finish eighth.

Five riders did not finish the race. Simon Marčič broke the rear suspension link on his bike shortly after starting Stage #1, then the rear shock came off while the gas tank was ruptured by a damaged tyre; although he managed to bring the bike to the rally’s halfway mark, a new engine he swapped in during the rest day expired in the ensuing leg. Michael Jacobi was forced to retire after breaking his sternum and ribs in Stage #8, while Bruno Leblanc crashed the following day and broke a clavicle.

Isaac Feliu withdrew after his TwinTrail Racing Team partner Carles Falcón died from cerebral edema and a C2 vertebra fracture that he sustained in a Stage #2 crash.

Original by Motul overall results

FinishNumberRiderTeamTimeMargin
196Tobias EbsterKini Rally Racing Team58:17:00Leader
237Jérôme MartinyAnquety Motorsport60:22:22+ 2:05:22
382Albert MartinPedrega Team64:21:17+ 6:04:17
461David PabiškaSP Moto Bohemia67:21:38+ 9:04:38
597Juan PugaJP1 Kews Dakar Rally Team68:13:21+ 9:56:21
6112Gioele MeoniDakar4Dakar68:52:40+ 10:35:40
7104Jérémie GerberTo Lucky Drive Racing70:12:19+ 11:55:19
887Libor PodmolPodmol Dakar Team71:37:07+ 13:20:07
9100Stuart GregoryStuart Gregory77:12:48+ 18:55:48
1032Kyle McCoyAmerican Rally Originals78:09:34+ 19:52:34
1164Romain DuchêneTeam GP Motors78:35:57+ 20:18:57
12132Andy BeaucoudTeam RAF78:44:25+ 20:27:25
13131Anthony FabreTeam RAF78:49:55+ 20:32:55
1484Tiziano InternóRally POV79:28:17+ 21:11:17
15141Vincent BiauVB × Kray&Co81:53:57+ 23:36:57
1685Thierry BéthysTB Racing86:20:49+ 28:03:49
17107Vasileios BoudrosDNA Filters – Enduro Greece91:44:37+ 33:27:37
1849Cesare ZacchettiKove Italia91:58:40+ 33:41:40
19122Abdulhalim Al-MogheeraHaleem102:39:52+ 44:22:52
2079Amaury BaratinHorizon Moto 95110:30:53+ 52:13:53
DNF56Simon MarčičJP1 Kews Dakar Rally TeamDNFN/A
DNF74Michael JacobiComas Moto / Môle Agri ForestDNFN/A
DNF133Bruno LeblancUn Dakar Pour De L’espoirDNFN/A
DNF134Isaac FeliuTwinTrail Racing TeamDNFN/A
DNF135Carles FalcónTwinTrail Racing TeamDNFN/A

Original by Motul stage winners

StageRiderTime
PrologueTobias Ebster22:36.3
Stage #1Tobias Ebster5:42:43
Stage #2Tobias Ebster4:55:04
Stage #3Tobias Ebster5:10:36
Stage #4Albert Martin3:39:51
Stage #5Tobias Ebster1:37:26
Stage #6Tobias Ebster9:14:05
Stage #7Jérôme Martiny6:19:00
Stage #8Tobias Ebster4:01:47
Stage #9Tobias Ebster5:06:55
Stage #10Tobias Ebster4:08:49
Stage #11Tobias Ebster5:44:38
Stage #12Tobias Ebster1:58:14
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Justin is not an off-road racer, but he writes about it for The Checkered Flag.
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