Josef Macháček: Mission successfully finished, new challenges on the horizon!
The reigning champion Josef Macháček entered the penultimate stage of the 2022 Dakar Rally as the 7th best driver in the Light prototype category. But that stage proved to be the toughest one yet. “Suddenly, we heard that ‘Machus’ is stuck somewhere in the desert. The guys were done, but nobody even considered an option that he wouldn’t be able to finish his final stage with Buggyra. When we saw him crossing the finish line on Friday, we were so happy,” said the chief designer David Vršecký, another key member of this successful 3-year cooperation.
At the beginning of 2019, the Buggyra ZM Racing was considering its Dakar future, and it was decided to go for the SSV category. “We were facing our first Dakar in Saudi Arabia. We knew that in the Truck category, the best we can do is the TOP 5. But light prototypes were a fresh challenge. And David thought that there can be a lot to do with a Can-Am special from a designing point of view,” remembers the team principal Martin Koloc. However, there was a question about who to hire as a driver. “We needed someone experienced, but also willing to work on the development side and to prepare the vehicle for the future winners, for someone else to take over later. Nobody thought that we could win in less than two years.” While it would not be an issue to hire a driver from any country in the world, in the end, it was decided to find a Czech driver for better communication with mechanics. “And that’s when we saw Josef Macháček as our perfect candidate. He won the quad bikes category five times, in Africa and Latin America. He was great at navigation and had so much experience. We were told that he doesn’t feel any need to prove anything to himself, and he doesn’t have any issues with ego. So, we invited him, offered him a three-year contract and it was signed very quickly,” remembers Martin Koloc.
Buggyra arrived at its first Dakar in Saudi Arabia with a new Can-Am special just after a few months of work. “We knew that we don’t have much time to sort out all the details. Our task was to build a vehicle that can make it to the finish, and that would be our base for the 2021 Dakar special. Josef had no problems with that, and he was calming me down saying that light prototypes are a nice ride in comparison to quad bikes,” says David Vršecký. Every finished stage added more calmness and a bet on reliability proved itself. “Josef made it to the end nicely, and in some stages, he even fought and attacked the TOP 10. Right after the Dakar, even before our flight back, he called me and gave me four papers of notes with everything, that was necessary to improve…”
With a Bedouin
While preparations for the 2021 Dakar Rally were affected by the worldwide COVID pandemic, the team was optimistic ahead of the new Dakar. And with a new driver joining the team - Tomáš Enge. “Not that we were going there to win, but we thought we can have two drivers in the TOP 10. We did a lot of work on both Can-Am specials, the vehicle was more predictable, easier to fix. I had been just saying how much Josef had to suffer at the first Dakar,” remembers David Vršecký.
The overall victory, the first one for the Czech Republic since 2009 and the first-ever for Buggyra, came without any stress, at least according to Martin Koloc. “Of course, we were lucky, but fortune favours the brave. And Josef showed his huge experience. First, there was no drama, and he was in the TOP 10 as planned. Then, he suddenly was fighting for the podium and then for the win. Maybe it looked like we were all thinking just about the Bedouin trophy, but Josef was calm, saying it was going to go one way or the other. And the emotions didn’t come until the finish line, where we all suddenly realised, including Josef, that in just two years we had managed to achieve something that others are waiting for their whole life. Hats off to Josef,” describes Martin Koloc.
Every finish counts
For the third Dakar, Josef Macháček faced the unpopular role of a reigning champion. “It’s a trap. The best you can do is to match your previous results. And the LW Proto category is getting stronger every year. There are new factory teams now, including giants like Red Bull. The category has much bigger quality now. While the media focused mostly on electric Audi in the Cars category, the LW Proto offered the biggest improvement,” says the team principal.
According to David Vršecký, the team arrived with a better vehicle and the same strategy. “After we saw the route, Josef told me that it’s going to be incredibly fast, and the penultimate stage will be the trickiest one. With drivers being tired, vehicles wore down. Unfortunately, he was totally right thanks to his experience, and instead of attacking the TOP 5, he lost a lot of time. But he finished and that counts...”
But Josef Macháček’s journey with Buggyra ZM Racing does not end with the final stage of the 2022 Dakar Rally. Next year, in January, the Dakar will welcome the historically youngest women racing drivers, sisters Aliyyah and Yasmeen Koloc. They had a successful debut last December, at the Rally Hail International. And who better to help them than a winner. “We haven’t discussed the details yet, but we’re counting on Josef. He’ll be testing with us, and his feedback is going to be very important, because of his experience. The Hail Rally showed that there’s potential. Aliyyah won, Yasmeen also had a great result. While one story ends, another one begins, and hopefully, a successful one,” believes Martin Koloc.