In 40 days a new edition of the dakar rally, which will be the 18th in the curriculum of Isidre Esteve. The first 10 she faced in the motorcycle category, always among the favorites, until a accident in 2007 left him in a wheelchair. Far from giving up -impossible, it doesn’t suit his character-, the driver from Oliana began a new stage on four wheels and now seven years after his first attempt, he has presented what he calls “the project of my life “. And it is that in 2023, Esteve will tackle the challenge in Saudi Arabia at the wheel of an impressive Toyota Hilux T1+1, the winning car last year with Nasser Al-Attiyah, a powerful machine that will allow him to fight “one on one” with the leading drivers, “although in a second group of favourites, since the first six, those who go in official teams, it is clear that they are faster”.
esteve (May 15, 1972) finished the last Dakar convinced that he needed to make a qualitative leap: “You have to get a T1+”, he told lydia, his partner, physiotherapist and partner in the Repsol Toyota Rally Team. The idea haunted him so strongly that he first convinced his loyal patrons. Repsol, KH7 and the insurance company MSG, among the main ones. And then he took advantage of a Toyota Spain event with the champion Al Attiyah to keep insisting on achieving your goal. “At the end of the stages my team was always stunned looking at the Hilux T1+ and I told them: One day we will have that car. And that day has arrived”, he stresses isidre with a telltale smile.
“A Little Special Edition”
The pilot is undoubtedly facing his greatest sporting challenge: “This edition is a bit special because it is the project of our lives, the one we had dreamed of. We have not reached the end of the road, there is a long way to go. After the accident I decided to do by car what I did on a motorcycle and this, not knowing where you can go, has been an incentive not to give up”, affirms the Catalan pilot, who on December 31 will be on the starting podium in Saudi Arabia together with his inseparable co-pilot Txema Villalobos.
“There will be a large number of cars, around 50 of the highest level, in the T1+ category, the most competitive of the Dakar. This represents an important leap forward on a technical level. If we wanted to continue growing and be competitive, we had to get one of these units , and we have achieved it. We have a car very similar to the winner of the last edition, compared to which only the engine changes, and which is exactly the same as that of the third classified”, he explains estevewhich since its debut this year has already shone with two ‘top 10’ finishes in the rallies in Andalusia and Morocco (seventh overall).
“A very big challenge”
Instead of the V6 3.4 biturbo engine that most Hilux T1+ equips, the car from Isidre Esteve mounts a V8 5.0 atmospheric 350 CV, similar to the one used up to now. “We have a very big challenge ahead of us, because the level of the Dakar is going to be very high, but I am confident that we will be very competitive. It would be very strange to finish in the top ten, but it is not unattainable, although it would be normal to be in the 12th and 25”, predicts.
His strategy is simple: “You have to be constant and try to manage the race well. The first week is on stony ground and it is important to avoid punctures or incidents that could make you lose two or three hours in one go. It’s about reach the rest day with the car intact and without already being ruled out of the general classification. We don’t know exactly what will come next until the route is presented, but it will be a second week of dunes and sand”, he says excitedly. “The controls of the car work better, I have better rhythm and txema It is very good at the navigation level, on paper this Dakar we like it a lot, with more stages over 400 kilometers and more difficulties, not as fast and stressful as 2022. We are more confident than before in the difficult stages, which is where we know how to defend ourselves best. When a stage is all speed there are faster people, but when it is complicated, with difficult navigation we can be with them”, he warns.