Budget brand Dacia has announced it will enter the Dakar Rally from 2025 with a vehicle created in collaboration with British motorsport and automotive tech firm Prodrive.
The Romanian manufacturer says it will use the development of the racing prototype entered in the World Rally-Raid Championship as an opportunity to test new technologies for its road cars.
Although not previously associated with rallying, Dacia believes the Dakar Rally is a “perfect illustration of the balance between the ‘rational’ and the ‘emotional’ that lies at the heart of Dacia’s DNA”.
The T1+ prototype to be developed for Dakar will allow Dacia to demonstrate its manufacturing skills when it comes to all-wheel drive capability in extreme conditions.
The Dacia challenger will compete in the 2024 Rallye du Maroc as a test event for the Dakar Rally the following year and will be piloted by Rally legend Sebastien Loeb and Spaniard Cristina Gutierrez Herrero.
“Not only is this a test of Dacia’s true robustness, but it is also a showing of our commitment to low-carbon mobility,” said Dacia CEO, Denis Le Vot.
In addition to Prodrive’s motorsport knowledge and production capabilities, Dacia will also draw resources for the project from its parent company, the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance.
Prodrive has seen previous success in the Dakar Rally, achieving second place in 2022 and 2023.
Last year, Prodrive created what it calls the “world’s first all-terrain hypercar”, with power from a 3.5-litre twin-turbocharged V6 engine making more than 447kW and 700Nm.
The £1.25m (AU$2.38 million) road-legal rendition of Prodrive’s Dakar racer gives “owners the opportunity to experience what it is like to drive Loeb’s Dakar car across the desert, but with all the comforts of a road car and the ability to drive it from your home, through a city, to any destination of your choice.”
Dacia also says that the prototype will run on synthetic fuel supplied by Saudi oil giant Aramco.
The synthetic test fuel, created by combining “renewable hydrogen with captured CO2, resulting in a lower-carbon, drop-in fuel”, will allow Dacia to test the efficiency of low-carbon fuels compatible with current combustion engines.
After Germany’s opposition to the EU’s proposed ban of new combustion vehicles from 2035, it was announced that combustion-powered vehicle sales would continue beyond 2035 provided they “only use CO2-neutral fuels”.
With combustion vehicles no longer headed for certain death in these markets, it’s likely more manufacturers, such as Dacia, will look to the viability of synthetic fuels as an additional offering alongside electric vehicles.
Porsche is just one major automaker that has made significant investments in synthetic fuels, including the establishment of a production plant in Chile in 2022 and plans to commence production in Tasmania by 2026.
The Dacia brand isn’t currently available on the Australian market, but Renault Australia boss Glen Sealey told CarExpert the local market may be on the cards for 2025 when the next-generation Duster could be engineered for right-hand drive.
Of Dacia’s current product lineup, the models that will interest Australia are the Duster and Bigster (which is still in concept form), according to Mr Sealey.