DAKAR is a lot of fun. Along with the Isle of Man TT, it is probably the most bonkers motorsport race on the planet.
To win it, you need skill, guts and a bit of luck, racing for hours through sandstorms and camel herds in the vast desert.
Then you do it again the next day. And the day after that. For 12 days.
But Dakar is fast becoming a test-bed for future tech as much as a driver’s mettle.
A little outfit called Prodrive — you may have heard of them — are running a 3.5-litre V6 from a Ford GT supercar in their Hunter buggy.
Sounds thirsty, doesn’t it?
Actually, it’s the greenest car on the start line as it runs on something called generation two biofuel — the main ingredient being agricultural waste — which reduces CO2 emissions by 80 per cent compared with petrol.
Plus, there’s no loss in performance. Or range. And it isn’t stupidly expensive.
I hope Boris and his cronies are reading this because my main point is, you can put this fuel in a Ford Fiesta right now.
Rather than push families into costly EVs that don’t suit everyone, it seems short-sighted that politicians haven’t explored this eco fuel before telling us to buy a car with a plug.
Prodrive technical director David Lapworth said: “Take your average electric car, it’s about 70,000 miles before you offset the amount of CO2 that was produced to make it.
“And even then it’s not as green as you think because we’re still getting electricity from coal-fired power stations. The quickest win is sustainable fuels — and millions and millions of cars on our roads could use it right now.”
That’s not to say Lapworth is anti-EV. He’s isn’t. He just thinks the world’s politicians “have got it all a**e about face”.
He said: “If the world was run by engineers and scientists and mathematicians and so on, you’d say, ‘Right, power stations first’.
PERFECTLY GOOD SOLUTION
“Because 75 per cent of the CO2 comes from power stations, and it’s the power stations that provide the energy for the steel works and the factories, so we need to get those converted first.
“Then we can push on with electric cars and LED lights because they won’t be producing masses of CO2 just to make them.
“There is nothing wrong with the world moving towards electric cars. They are a perfectly good solution. They work very well. But it’s a massive journey. And they are ignoring the fact there are other, short-term solutions.”
To put all that into perspective, Prodrive reckons it will save 28 tons of CO2 per car using sustainable fuels on the Dakar. That’s a lot.
And Prodrive is running three cars.
The fuel was co-developed with British firm Coryton Advanced Fuels.
Coryton boss Andrew Willson said: “Sustainable fuels could be used in all cars which typically run on petrol or diesel.
“There’s no need for any alterations to either vehicles or the infrastructure surrounding refuelling.
“Given we’re in a climate emergency, why would we not make those easier changes as we transition into fully electric vehicles?
“We’re still emitting millions of tonnes of CO2 from our existing cars every year.”
Over to you, Boris.
Dakar is my Everest
PRODRIVE boss David Richards is an impressive man.
He’s won trophies in WRC, F1, Le Mans, BTCC and his old F1 team evolved into Mercedes.
But the one thing missing from D-R’s incredible CV is Dakar.
This is his second crack at it, with superstar driver Sebastien Loeb piloting the beautiful Hunter T1.
D-R said: “Everyone thinks of different motor races as being very special. Some say it’s the 24 Hours of Le Mans, it’s the Indianapolis 500, it’s the Monaco Grand Prix.
“But if you asked me, ‘What is the Everest of motorsport? What is the most difficult, the most challenging type of motorsport event in the world?’
“It is the Dakar. Over 4,000km across some of the most challenging terrain anywhere in the world. It is extraordinary.
“To build a car that’s reliable and to find drivers and co-drivers to navigate it is equally as difficult.
“So to win this, if we can win this one year, then it’ll be the ultimate feather in our cap.”
If you’re an old rally fan like me, you can see history repeating itself over at Prodrive in Banbury.
Small private team taking on the big boys – and winning – and then putting all that know-how into customer cars.
D-R said: “This is just the start. We’ve developed a customer car, the Hunter Hyper, which you can come and see in February. It’s the ultimate off-road vehicle.
“If you wanted to cross the Sahara, this is the car you’d use. If you want to go across Africa in the fastest time ever, this is the car you’d take.
“We are developing another customer version of this Dakar car, which will be a slightly lower specification, and then we are working on the next smaller car, the T3 car, that will be ready in 2024.
“For me, this is where the World Rally Championship was 30 or 40 years ago. So I see this as very much back to our roots.”
It was good to see some old faces that have been at Prodrive since the Colin McRae/Subaru years.
- Prodrive are currently second in the Dakar with two days to go.