VIDEO: Casale finished 5th in Prologue, Al Saif took 8th place despite two punctures!
While Dakar Rally is a competition, where nothing is written in stone until the end of the last stage, the Prologue has hinted that Tatra Buggyra Racing and Buggyra ZM Racing drivers can aim very high this year.
The Prologue stage for the 2022 Dakar Rally led from Jeddah to Ha’il (636 km / 19 km) and consisted of dusty roads and small dunes. That offered perfect conditions for the final test before the real start. Yet, it was not just a casual ride. The fifteen fastest drivers from each category can choose their starting position for the opening stage of the event.
A nice stage
Unlike in previous years, Prologue results count towards the overall classification and also the new World Rally-Raid Championship co-sanctioned by the FIA and FIM. Saleh Al Saif had a rough start of his home race, as the Buggyra driver faced two punctures on the 4th kilometre already. He went on to finish the stage on damaged rims, one minute behind the winner. The final 8th place is an exceptional result considering the circumstances. “I enjoyed the Prologue, despite the troubles with my tyres. The Can-Am is very fast and it’s a shame that we had to slow down. Yet, I’m happy with today,” said the Buggyra ZM Racing driver at the finish line. “A nice stage. We’ve lost a little over a minute due to the double puncture, but we’re still at the very beginning. And regarding the vehicle, I can only confirm Saleh’s words,” added the Spanish navigator Oriol Vidal Montijano.
The defending champion Josef Macháček and his navigator Pavel Vyoral finished in 20th place, as they took a more cautious approach due to the nature of the route. “There was a lot of sand and stones, so there was not much to gain, but lots to lose. For the first time, we were working with the new navigation system, and it’s vibrating to my liking. It’s not very comfortable and the paper feels more stable. We made one mistake when we took one turn too late, but this gap won’t affect us in the final standings,” he confirmed after the stage.
Twelve seconds away from a podium
In the Trucks category, the Prologue was dominated by Kamaz trucks. The factory team took the first four places in the standings, as expected. However, right behind them was Ignacio Casale. “I was expecting a good result and it went well. It was a difficult Prologue, but the results have confirmed that we can fight for the podium. The Kamaz trucks are very strong, but I was just 12 seconds behind the 3rd place. I hope that Téo is watching and he’s learning from a distance at least,” said the happy three-time Dakar champion.
And even the head of Buggyra’s communication Jan Kalivoda did not hide his excitement. “Saleh and Ignacio were in the TOP 10, and in the first case, it could have been even better. I don’t remember when we were that close to the podium like Ignacio today. With Josef, last year he proved to be the master tactician, who knows what he’s doing. On the other hand, we’ve done only the first 19 kilometres and the most important part is still ahead of us. A lot will be revealed in tomorrow’s stage already, but so far so good, we’re calm.”