Dacia has announced that it is to enter the 2025 Dakar Rally with off-road driving legend Sebastian Loeb, 2024 Dakar T3 category winner Cristina Gutiérrez and multiple Dakar winner Nasser Al-Attiyah behind the wheel.
Seeing as the world's most gruelling race will likely eat a Duster alive, Dacia has turned to race engineering specialist Prodrive for assistance in building a bespoke machine to tackle the back-to-back days of mechanical punishment Dakar vehicles have to endure.
Prodrive will supply a basic tubular chassis with carbon fibre bodywork, while a twin-turbo 3.0-litre V6 sends 360bhp to all four wheels for maximum traction. Suspension with a staggering 350mm of travel assists in soaking up the lumps and bumps, while next-generation BF Goodrich tyres feature for maximum puncture resistance.
Dacia's engineering department has also been working closely with the drivers to introduce comfort and convenience features to make life behind the wheel slightly more bearable. The anti-reflective paint used on the upper part of the dashboard – a technique borrowed from the aviation industry– optimises visibility, for example, and the seats are upholstered in special anti-bacterial fabrics that self-regulate humidity.
In addition to this, Dacia says it has introduced a magnetic plate, built into the bodywork of Sandrider, to prevent the fixation bolts for the wheels getting lost in the sand after listening to driver feedback. After all, crawling around in the dust looking for wheel nuts can make or break a team's overall time.
Although we likely won’t see Dacia release a Sandrider built for public consumption (it wouldn’t be great on the school run), the Romanian company sees it as an opportunity to test synthetic fuels, as this Dakar beast will run exclusively on a more environmentally-friendly juice developed by Aramco.
If you want to see it in action, you'll have to keep an eye on the Ultimate T1+ category in the Dakar Rally next year, although Dacia says early prototypes will be put to the test as early as 2024 at the Rallye du Maroc.