Historic off-road racing occupies a very popular niche in the sport for competitors and fans of all ages. Here in America, vintage machines play a huge role in events like the NORRA Mexican 1000, and even run alongside modern cars in UNLTD Off-Road Racing events like the BFGoodrich Tires Mint 400.
For rally raid, the biggest historic stage is the Dakar Classic, where legendary vehicles from decades past go back to battle alongside the modern machines run by names like Carlos Sainz, Sébastien Loeb, and Nasser Al-Attiyah.
The Dakar Classic was first conceived in 2021. It’s a throwback to the Paris-Dakar days that still lend its name to the modern event.
Unlike the main Dakar Rally, the Dakar Classic is about consistency. It’s not scored by time, but by points, and the lowest score wins.
In short, the more accurately you navigate the course, the better off you’ll be in the standings!
Signature cars from all eras take on the event, from this Mitsubishi Pajero, raced by Stefano Calzi, that finished third in 1996 in the hands of Jean-Pierre Fontenay…
…to multiple Porsche 959s, including this one raced by defending champion Juan Morera…
…to a wide selection of classic trucks, including this Mercedes run by Rafael Lesmes Suarez that was best among them.
In total, this year’s event had more than 80 entries, with brands like Toyota and Land Rover also very well represented.
Plenty of those teams also had direct links to legends of the event—such as Classic Team de Rooy, which saw Janus van Kasteren Sr., father of 2023 Dakar Rally Truck winner Janus van Kasteren, take the wheel of a former Jan De Rooy DAF.
Since the Dakar Classic is a navigation rally for vintage equipment, you’d imagine that the crews might take extra care of their machines…
…but it’s still racing, after all, and things can get competitive!
And especially since this is still the Dakar, not everyone made it to the finish unscathed, if at all.
After multiple issues during the event, including this stop on Stage 4, the Madpanda Motorsport team finally withdrew after Stage 7…
…while the popular Citroen 2CV, driven by Barbora Holicka and decked out in duck-themed pop art, finished 63rd overall, with a tow on Stage 10 part of their adventure.
In fact, while the margin of victory was just 12 points, only the top four teams were within 1,000 points of the lead.
Leading the charge was the Factorytub team, whose Toyota Land Cruiser was driven by Carlos Santaolalla Milla. Even with 300 penalty points, and an 18th place finish on Stage 8 that briefly cost them the overall lead, the #768 team led a majority of the event.
Coming in second was this Nissan Pathfinder run by Lorenzo Traglio, whose father Maurizio is a legendary mechanic and took over the Tecnosport team.
Third was another Tecnosport entry driven by Paolo Bedeschi, the only team to avoid a penalty after all 12 stages. It was his second straight third place finish in the Dakar Classic.
After Marc Douton’s win in a Dunhill Buggy in 2021, Land Cruisers have been the dominant cars in the Dakar Classic so far, winning the past three. Will the streak continue in 2025? We’ll have to wait another year to find out.