Dacia Hits the Jackpot! Nine-Time WRC Champ Sebastien Loeb Drives for Them in Dakar Rally

Renault-owned Dacia has just hit the jackpot! They convinced nine-time World Rally Champion Sebastien Loeb to drive for them in the 2025 World Rally-Raid Championship. Dacia will start in the Dakar Rally as a manufacturer.
Dacia Manifesto Concept 10 photos
Photo: Dacia
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Renault is thus going back to the competition where it scored its one and only victory 41 years ago, in 1982, when the event was held in Africa and Europe.

With a lineup of budget-friendly cars, Dacia is not exactly used to motor racing. We can’t expect to see Europe’s super popular mini Sandero in the Dakar Rally, nor the Duster crossover.

Instead, the car that French rally world champion Sebastien Loeb and Spanish rally driver Cristina Gutierrez Herrero will have to deal with will be a four-wheel prototype running on synthetic fuel, supplied by Saudi oil giant Aramco. The Romanian carmaker will enter the T1+ category. Loeb and Gutierrez will officially start racing for Dacia in 2024. The first official test for the vehicle will be the 2024 Rally du Maroc.

Renault will team up with British motorsport and engineering group Prodrive for the development of the rally-raid model.

If rally enthusiasts need to visualize the car that will start in the rally, they will have to think about the Manifesto concept that Dacia revealed in September 2022. Back then, Dacia was describing it as a vehicle with a very generous ride height, large wheels, and a body built to withstand the toughest of terrains. Lightweight and compact, the Manifesto concept sports a waterproof interior that can be cleaned with a water jet and removable seat covers that can turn into sleeping bags when necessary.

Cork covers the dashboard, together with other natural and recycled materials, and gone is the decorative chrome plating that has been a thing for years on board the company’s production models. It remains to be seen what the prototype that Loeb will be driving starting next year will actually look like.

"Dacia, alongside the best team and drivers in the game, are serious contenders for the rally," says Dacia’s CEO, Denis Le Vot. The brand claims it is just like the competition that it joins: both rational and emotional.

And the ace up their sleeve is Sebastien Loeb. The 49-year old ticked every single World Rally Championship between 2004 and 2012, getting the "greatest rally driver of all time" description alongside his name.

He has been running in the Dakar since 2016 and, starting in 2021, he participated in the competition driving the Bahrain Raid Xtreme Hunter, designed and run by Prodrive, the team that is now working with Dacia.

His teammate, 31-year old Cristina Gutierrez Herrero, is the first Spanish woman to finish the Dakar Rally in 2017. She can brag about the all-terrain rally championship in the women’s category in Spain back in 2012.
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