Dakar

Ales Loprais building Tatra Puma for Dakar Classic

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Credit: Loprais Team

Aleš Loprais and his team have started work on building a Tatra 815 Puma for the Dakar Classic, intended as a tribute to his uncle Karel Loprais. The project began in early April.

Karel Loprais raced the Paris–Dakar Rally from 1986 to 2006, exclusively for Tatra as an employee for the company, with his first race in the Puma 4×4 truck (officially designated as T 815-2 R55-16) taking place in 1998. Already a three-time winner prior but coming off a retirement in the 1997 edition due to an engine failure, he hoped the Puma would be more reliable and his wishes were answered as he scored two stage wins en route to victory in the Truck class. Over the next three years, Loprais added two more wins in 1999 and 2001 while finishing second in 2000 and 2002.

The Puma was eventually put on display in at the Tatra Technical Museum (Technické muzeum Tatra) in Kopřivnice. He continued to race at Dakar through 2006 before retiring. Loprais died in December 2021 at the age of 72.

The younger Loprais also began his career with Tatra, working as his uncle’s navigator in 2006 before taking over as driver. In 2011, he won the Silk Way Rally in Russia and remains the race’s only non-Russian or -Belarusian Truck champion. After bouncing between various manufacturers between 2015 and 2019, including a return to Tatra, he currently races for fellow Czech manufacturer Praga. Aleš finished runner-up in class at the latest Dakar in January.

In March, Tatra Trucks launched Projekt T 162 “Karel”, building a rally raid-spec T 162 truck that was conceived in 1988 but never realised.

The Dakar Classic, a navigation-based companion race to the Dakar Rally, is reserved for vehicles built before the new millennium. Fesh Fesh Team and Buggyra ZM Racing have fielded a Puma in the Dakar Classic for Radovan Kazarka in 2022 and 2023, respectively finishing ninetieth and thirty-sixth overall. Buggyra also races Tatra trucks in the main Dakar Rally.

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