Colombia will be represented in the upcoming 2024 Dakar Rally, which will take place amidst the dunes of the Saudi Arabian desert from January 5th to January 19th. In this competition, Antioquian driver Javier Velez is the sole Colombian participant in any of the competition’s categories. Alongside him, as a co-pilot, will be the Argentine Gaston Matarucco, navigating the meticulously prepared Can-Am T3 by the Spanish FN Speed team.
The 46th edition of the Dakar welcomes 778 participants representing 187 teams across 434 racing vehicles. Among them are 137 motorcycles, 72 cars (in the main category), 46 trucks, 42 challengers (previously T3), 36 SSVs, and 10 quads. Additionally, 80 vehicles are reserved in the Classic class. Notably, 135 rookies are present, ready for their first Dakar, symbolizing the global allure of the event with competitors from 72 different nationalities and supporting teams.
Javier Velez’s Track Record in the Dakar
This will mark Velez’s fourth foray into the Dakar, following his participation in 2021 aboard an SSV, which was cut short due to mechanical issues. In 2022 and 2023, he finished 29th and 26th respectively, in different categories, demonstrating his versatility and perseverance. His professional racing career began in 2018 with the DR 40 in Argentina, followed by the Atacama Rally in Chile in 2019, where he secured podium finishes in both competitions.
In preparation for the monumental challenge of the 2024 Dakar, Velez’s activities during 2023 included the SARR, where he achieved an impressive 11th place in the T3.1 class. A highlight of his year was winning the SS4 category in the Grand Andean Rally Raid held in Darien. Furthermore, he secured the third position in the T4 Open Cars class in the DR 40.
Reflecting on last year’s experiences and gearing up for the imminent challenge, Velez shared, “The 2023 Dakar was extremely tough and grueling, but every challenge adds to our experience. We faced significant challenges, especially during the Marathon stage when a steering bar broke. We endured, repaired it, and ultimately clinched the finishers’ medal. Throughout the year, Eugenio (Arrieta) and I took part in the SARR, facing some mechanical issues but performing well. The Darien Rally was another significant victory alongside Gaston (Matarucco), followed by a solid performance in the DR 40 with Fernando (Imperatrice). These, along with smaller events, served as our training ground for the great challenge of the Dakar.”
Confidence in His Vehicle
Velez embarks on the journey towards the 2024 Dakar with the same vehicle used in 2023, albeit with crucial modifications. His decision is rooted in deep confidence in the vehicle’s capabilities: “We are rebooting the car, installing a new engine and differentials because we need a highly reliable vehicle. Our goal is to finish the rally with the car and drivers without setbacks and, moreover, surpass our previous positions”, he stated.
The rally’s peak, scheduled for January 14th, presents the longest stretch, covering a total of 873 kilometers, including a timed special stage of 483 kilometers.