Instaforex Loprais Praga Team heads to Dakar 2021 with new strategy

Instaforex Loprais Praga Team heads to Dakar 2021 with new strategy

The main goal for the Instaforex Loprais Praga Team in Dakar Rally 2021 remains the same. Aleš Loprais with his Praga V4S DKR aims to fight for the highest positions in the truck category. However, this time, his efforts will be doubled with a second truck. The Loprais’ crew is going to enjoy support from Jan Tománek, Tomáš Kašpárek and Jiří Stross with Tatra Jamal – Queen 69.

Despite a unique coincidence, that is behind the nickname “Three Zeroes” for the Tatra crew number 520 – as they all share the same blood group – it is a very strong and versatile team.

“Tomáš has done a lot of rallies and cross-country rallies. He’s capable of driving and also navigating in the whole Dakar. He’s a very versatile player in case the team gets affected by the COVID-19 in the last minute. It’s a similar case with Jiří, who is not just a great mechanic, but he could also step in as a navigator,” says Jan Tománek about qualities of his teammates. But Jan can also do various roles, as he previously participated in Dakar as a driver and a navigator as well, in a car and a truck. And just like Jiří Stross, he is known to be an excellent mechanic.

They all can also utilise their vast experience as co-drivers in rallies. As a navigator, Tománek helped to steer Martin Prokop towards a victory in the Junior World Rally Championship, while Kašpárek won the Czech Sprintrally championship with Roman Kresta. And Stross also had enjoyed several successes in the national championships over the past few years.

“The biggest embarrassment would be if we struggled due to the navigational errors,” laughs Tománek, but he firmly believes in his crew and their chemistry. “I drove with each of them in the past and we’re friends. It was our intention to build the crew in this way.”

Battle strategy

Despite being born competitive, Tománek and his crew do not aim for their own strong result at Dakar Rally 2021.

“It is going to be about a battle strategy. From my point of view, it is Aleš who needs to fight. While he said that I’ll be pushing The Queen, the reality is slightly different. I won’t be racing, because we added another half a tonne of material to this ‘old lady’ just to help Aleš and his crew when they might need, so they could give it everything,” reveals Tománek.

Having another vehicle in the race should help the red and white Praga to be even faster. Tománek’s Tatra is set to carry more reserve tyres and they will be ready to help when necessary and for as long as needed. That is going to allow Loprais to take bigger risks, especially in situations when he had to ease off and take a safer and slower approach in the past.

“If possible, we’ll try to be right behind Aleš. That is always a big advantage. The question is, how well the guys will be doing and how safe and fast it’s going to be possible for The Queen to drive with so much load. The strategy is built in a way that it might work, but there are also some big question marks. Aleš can relax because there’s somebody to help him, but who’s going to help us? It gives us a huge responsibility that I’m feeling. A precision drive without any mistakes will be crucial with such a heavy vehicle,” says the six-time Dakar Rally participant.

Tománek, Kašpárek and Stross might also play an important role in the marathon stage, after which the crews in a bivouac do not have access to mechanics and other team members as only the crews are allowed to service their vehicles. But they can help each other.

Proven and reliable

The decision about entering the second truck also meant more intensive preparations in team workshops this Autumn. The Tatra Jamal – Queen 69 truck underwent a careful refurbishment, but also some adjustments, so the truck can carry more equipment and spare parts.

“For example, the steering weighs 70 kilograms. You can’t just put it there; you need to pretty much build it in. So, we had to come up with all kinds of mounts and holders,” explains Loprais’ mechanic Petr Pokora, who also helped with preparations of both trucks.

“And there are more things just like that. For example, because of a different design, The Queen had to be tarped again. And that’s a lot of work that takes almost two days.”

“The Queen took a lot of time and effort. Everything was fixed, renovated, and changed. All the shafts, tubes, compressors, and all other important parts are new. The Queen is proven and reliable and while it’s not as fast as Praga, it still delivers great performances. That’s why I think that the guys can be near us,” believes Pokora.

Fly in the right direction

While preparation is important and a well-thought strategy and resilient determination of all team members are the only way to succeed, one moment is all it takes for everything to fall apart in the most difficult marathon rally in the world.

“It all sounds beautiful and I wish it could be all just like that, but Dakar offers so many different scenarios. I’ve experienced a lot at Dakar, so I know that we can’t evaluate until the finish line. Well, in case everything goes well, and we indeed finish. At this moment, I can only hope that everything is going to run smoothly, the trucks will fly in the right direction and without technical hiccups,” says Aleš Loprais who knows that he needs to keep both feet on the ground.

The Czech and Slovak participants of Dakar Rally will head to Saudi Arabia right after Christmas, on a special flight. The Instaforex Loprais Praga Team is going to do the last test for both trucks during the official shakedown, that starts on December 30 and ends on the New Year’s Day. All the technical and administrative scrutineerings will take place in Jeddah on January 1 and 2.

The Dakar Rally 2021 officially begins on Saturday, January 2 with an 11-kilometre long Prologue, that is going to determine the starting order for the opening leg. From Sunday, January 3 until Friday, January 15, the crews will face 12 legs that are 7,646 kilometres long, out of which 4,767 kilometres are going to be timed.

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