Quad riders dismayed at category’s “extremely unfair” Dakar demise

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Credit: Antonin Vincent/DPPI

The Dakar Rally will no longer have the Quad class in 2025 as the Amaury Sport Organisation places more focus on bikes, ending a sixteen-year run as an official category and nearly three-decade stretch with such a vehicle taking part. Needless to say, its riders are not too thrilled about having their livelihoods ripped away from them.

ASO head David Castéra confirmed the category’s removal days before the start of the BP Ultimate Rally-Raid in Portugal, a round of the World Rally-Raid Championship like the Dakar, though rumours persisted long prior on the heels of just ten quads at Dakar in January. Many like Pablo Copetti, who finished third at the 2023 edition, deemed the scarcity as manufactured by the ASO through tightened eligibility criteria that require Quad entrants to either have three W2RC starts or raced a Dakar in the past five years, neither of which are mandated for the bikes. Others pointed out that over thirty riders registered for the 2024 race, only for the group to be whittled down to ten by the new rules, and such a policy would have remained if the class remained for 2025.

After winning the first stage in Portugal, reigning Dakar Quad winner Manuel Andújar called the victory a “somewhat bittersweet feeling” due to the Dakar announcement. He blasted Castéra’s reasoning as selfish and lobbied for the FIM to take action with the hope that they could change his mind.

“It was a crucial stepping stone category during the (Dakar’s) time in South America, reaching over fifty participants when the few motorcycles couldn’t fill the starting grid,” wrote Andújar. “I believe that if it had to end, it should have been done differently or at least with respect. Gradually, they killed the category by imposing silly requirements to be part of it to the point of only allowing ten quads when there were more than thirty signed up in 2024. Riders were required to participate in several World Championship rounds to earn points and compete in Dakar 2025. They raised the budget, set off on the adventure, owed money to people, sponsors, and were CHEATED by removing the category overnight when the project was already underway.

“I started racing this event at the age of 20, a race that taught me many values as a person and rider including discipline, honour, resilience, true friendship, teamwork, and much more. This race meant so much to me that I even tattooed it on my skin. I never imagined that MONEY and the WHIMS of one person could outweigh these learned values.”

Castéra stresses the axing stems more from declining manufacturer support, especially as Yamaha—who offers very limited support via regional branches—and the two-man CFMOTO are typically the only marques at each round. Such an argument is not unfounded, as various riders including five-time Dakar winners Alejandro and Marcos Patronelli had to abort their plans of racing in 2024 because of low sponsorship. Numbers in the class have also declined since the race’s move from South America, where Quads made their début in 2009, to Saudi Arabia in 2020. This also extends to the W2RC as a whole, where races like the 2023 Sonora Rally and February’s Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge had as few as two and three quads, though numbers improve for the Desafío Ruta 40 in South America and the Rallye du Maroc, the season finale and a dress rehearsal for Dakar.

Juraj Varga, third in the 2024 race, intentionally retired from Portugal in protest of the decision; he had been eliminated by an electrical issue in Stage #1 but opted against repairing it and rejoining the race. Although Quads will still be present at the other W2RC rounds, Varga feels they are pointless to enter for most, who are generally doing so with the explicit goal of racing at Dakar.

“Quads not participating in Dakar 2025 was announced to us in the middle of the race, where riders from all over the world are competing with the main goal: to qualify for the Dakar Rally itself,” Varga posted. “In Portugal, we had problems right from the first stage but we could continue, albeit out of the overall. However, after the publication of this information, I decided not to start the third stage and to withdraw from the race as I was in a qualifying race that does not qualify me anywhere.

“We were very surprised because preparing quads, planning logistics for the whole season, and preparing finances takes a lot of time and energy, but we do it all for the main thing: Dakar. To cancel the main reason why we all do this in the middle of the season is extremely unfair to me.”

Suany Martinez, who has done the Dakar on a quad since it went through her home country of Bolivia in 2016, called the news “really sad and heartbreaking.” Having planned to enter the 2025 race, she expressed worry that the loss will disproportionately hurt fellow South American rally raiders as most Quad riders hail from the continent, as evidenced by the larger fields in the 2010s and at the DR 40.

Unless everyone’s pleas somehow manage to reverse the decision, they will have to look elsewhere if they wish to race future Dakar Rallies. Copetti has already gotten started on this as he will switch to the SSV class for 2025, while 2023 W2RC Quad runner-up Rodolfo Guillioli is now a car co-driver.

Quads first appeared at Dakar in 1997, though usually grouped with bikes or not classified altogether, and it would not be until 2009 that they became their own category.

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