Namibia springboard for the Dakar

SKILLS … Puck Klaasen practising her dune driving skills in the Namib. Photo: Contributed

The Namib Desert is one of the few places where rally drivers go before taking on the most gruelling and toughest rally on the planet – the Dakar Rally.

Local rally drivers were caught off guard recently when they spotted an unfamiliar green Porsche rally car at Swakopmund, with two visitors approaching and asking about local rally stages they could use in preparation of Dakar 2024.

Puck Klaassen (21) from The Netherlands, who currently lives in Cape Town, South Africa, and her father, Sebastiaan, opted for the Namib as it is the closest to the sand dunes they would face in the Dakar Rally to be held in Saudi Arabia in January.

Speaking to Top Revs from Swakopmund, Klaassen could not hide her excitement about making use of the Namib dunes while gushing about the Namibian scenery and hospitality she has experienced so far.

Being a first-timer to the Dakar, she said the decision to take part was spontaneous.

The former motocross rider said she sustained an injury during an MX race and then decided the next best thing is rallies.

It was during a visit to Switzerland with her father that a friend told them about the Dakar Rally, she said.

Her father bought the Porsche for the Dakar from the friend on the same day, she said.

Sebastiaan will be navigating for his daughter, and is in full support of her endeavour.

“I was a bit nervous coming to Namibia, as I did not know what to expect.

“I have never driven in dunes before. It is so cool. While driving to the dunes I pictured myself in the Dakar Rally,” Klaassen said.

She said she faced the dunes with a “no-panic” approach, since this is the reality she will be facing early next year, she said.

Klaassen’s weapon of choice for this rally is a 1986 Porsche 911 3,2L 2WD rear-drive.

The car has been converted for the rally, she said.

Her only dream for the Dakar is “to finish in one piece and to take part again in the future”.

Klaassen’s technical crew will consist of a French team, she said.

“I want us to be the best we can and have fun, and just finish the Dakar,” Klaassen said.

The Dakar rally is not only the world’s longest and toughest rally, but also the breeding and testing ground for motor technology, lubricants and other motor-related accessories.

The Dakar will start on 5 January and will end on 19 January.

The teams will face 12 stages, stretching over a distance of almost 7 900km, of which 4 272km are special stages.

Some of the Dakar rally teams, including Brian Baragwanath from South Africa and Rosh Branch from Botswana, are regulars in training sessions in Namibia.

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