DAKAR 2024 IS FINALLY HERE
The Instaforex Loprais Praga Team had a successful start to the Dakar Rally 2024. Aleš Loprais, Jaroslav Valtr Jr. and Jiří Stross finished the prologue in second place, and after the first three stages now lead the truck category standings.
The forty-sixth edition of the Dakar Rally began on Friday, January 5, with a short prologue. While according to the new FIA rules for cars and trucks, the prologue times do not count towards the overall standings anymore, it was a very important test for the crews. Also, the prologue results still decide the starting order for the first stage scheduled for Saturday.
A 27-kilometre-long prologue took place northeast of AlUla. It consisted mostly of sand, which was particularly soft in some places. And, already,the skills of the navigators were tested, due to frequent direction changes. Every wrong turn in rocks and canyons could be especially damaging on such short routes and lead to dropping far back in the standings. And the worse starting position you have on Saturday, the more complications you face, as it means getting through many other competitors, in difficult terrain, which is expected for tomorrow.
However, Aleš Loprais, Jaroslav Valtr Jr. and Jiří Stross handled their first challenge perfectly and can celebrate their second position in the standings,only 16 seconds behind last year’s winner, Janus van Kasteren. Mitchel van den Brink finished in third position, almost half a minute behind Loprais and his crew.
“I’ve got to say that it was probably the most beautiful prologue since the Dakar has moved to Saudi Arabia. It offered quite some variety, and it was busy on the track,” says Aleš Loprais.
The 544-kilometre-long opening stage from AlUla to Al Henakiyah already saw some unexpected changes. Originally, the special stage was supposed to be 414 kilometres long, but organisers cut it short to only 281 kilometres for trucks due to a delayed start of the car and truck categories as the officials were worried about crews running until late night hours.
The #602 Praga V4S DKR truck made it to the new finish of the stage in fourth place. After three hours of driving, Aleš Loprais, Jaroslav Valtr Jr. and Jiří Stross were only 7 minutes and 49 seconds behind the stage winning Dutch crew of Janus van Kasteren,and only 47 seconds behind Jaroslav Valter Sr., who finished in third position.
The first day’s stage results are the same as the overall classification, as the prologue no longer counts towards the overall standings following a rule change by the FIA for the car and truck categories.
The 463-kilometre-long Sunday’s stage between Al Henakiyah and Al Duwadimi was fast, but shortly after the start, the crews faced a 30-kilometre-long section in sand and dunes. While that itself was not extremely difficult, it was necessary to remain careful and aware of potentially tricky elements like broken dunes, which usually offer sharp peaks followed by a steep descent.
“Today’s stage was really long and broken in some places. The navigation begins to be really interesting, and if this trend continues, it will be funny,” says Jaroslav Valtr Jr., the team’s navigator, with a smile.
Aleš Loprais with Jaroslav Valtr Jr. and Jiří Stross were among the top six trucks past the first checkpoints, and their gap to Janus van Kasteren, who remained in the lead today, never exceeded six minutes. They managed to keep the optimal pace from the first to the last kilometre, and after the first third of the special stage, they had firmly settled themselves in second position. Then, in the final 100 kilometres, they managed to reduce their gap to the leading Dutch crew even further, and cross the finish line only six seconds behind last year’s winner.
Thanks to that, the Instaforex Loprais Praga Team improved by two places in the overall standings. Two of the trucks previously ahead lost over twenty minutes to the stage winner and faced a post-race penalty for missing one of the waypoints. The Czech team currently holds second place in the standings, less than 13 minutes behind van Kasteren and over nine minutes ahead of Martin Macík Jr. in third position.
“Today, it was a really nice but difficult stage. It’s almost unbelievable there were only six seconds between the first and second places after more than 400 kilometres. It always makes you think what you could have done differently,” says Aleš Loprais in disbelief.
On Monday, January 8, 2024, Aleš Loprais, Jaroslav Valtr Jr. and Jiří Stross took their first stage win together at Dakar Rally. The Praga V4S DKR was the fastest truck on the route from Al Duwadimi to Al Salamiya, and they were also fast enough to move ahead of Janus van Kasteren, last year’s winner, to take the lead in the overall standings.
“This was the most difficult stage we’ve had here. Very rough dunes. On three occasions, we couldn’t get across a dune on the first try, and we had to try several times from various directions. There was so much dust, stones, holes, and jumps,” describes Aleš Loprais, who, together with his crew, handled the first half of the marathon stage very successfully.
From the first checkpoint, the Praga truck number 602 clung to second place. And halfway through the stage, right after the dunes, the crew even moved up into the lead. And they remained on top until the end, despite spending the final fourth of the special stage in the dust behind one of the vehicles they had caught up with.
Aleš Loprais, Jaroslav Valtr Jr., and Jiří Stross won Stage Three of Dakar Rally 2024 by more than four minutes ahead of Martin Macík Jr. and over 16 minutes ahead of Janus van Kasteren in third position. The Dutch crew, who was victorious last year, dropped to second place in the overall standings, with Loprais taking the lead by almost four minutes.
You can follow the Loprais Praga team behind the scenes and onboard the ‘Lady’ truck by watching the daily Vlog on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UDhc7izjxts&list=PLBHmf5ZfpPjoGIhGeqdCj2idB-09_aEqO&index=4