There will be an all-female truck team at the next Dakar Rally this January. The team will consist of three Dutch women and will be piloted by Anja van Loon, with Flor Matten as co-driver and Mariej van Eetekhoven as a mechanic. This will be the first time that an all-female truck team will participate in the world’s most challenging rally. “We’re really looking forward to it, it’s very exciting!” Anja Van Loon told the NL Times.
The Dakar Rally is an off-road, multi-day endurance event where competitors encounter terrain that is much more inhospitable than those participating in a traditional rally. The event includes five categories: motorcycles, quad bikes, cars, light vehicles and trucks. In 2024, Saudi Arabia will host the event for the fifth year in a row, from January 5 to 19.
Anja Van Loon told the NL Times that her team is actively involved in various preparations. We are currently developing the truck. We aim to have it ready by September, as our first rally together will be in October. As part of its preparations, the team will compete in the Rally Morocco from October 12th to 18th. The truck, Iveco Powerstar, is built and serviced by Team DeRoy.
The 38-year-old from Eersel, North Brabant, explained that the preparation takes place primarily in the Netherlands, but the team often travels abroad to train. “Training in the Netherlands is impossible due to the lack of appropriate reasons,” Van Loon said. They opt instead for facilities in countries like France, Spain, Germany and Poland.
He will be accompanied by Anya van Loon Fleur-Matten as co-driver and Marieje van Eticoven as mechanic. “It’s really good,” said Van Loon. “We have a strong bond. Although women’s teams have competed in the Dakar Rally in both the car and buggies categories, the all-women truck team is unprecedented. Last year, we see more.” She pointed to the women. now.
Not only will the team be 100% women, but it will also be 100% Dutch. “Communication is very good. It’s good that we can speak Dutch,” she said. I recalled last year’s experience racing alongside Ukrainian driver Dmitry Tsero in the lightweight class. “Then it was all in English, of course. This time it was.” It’s going to be different.” They finished the rally in 14th place.
2024 will be her second Dakar Rally as a driver. But Van Loon’s attachment to the Dakar Rally runs deep. Her husband, Eric van Loon, has been participating in the Dakar Rally since 2009, while her father, Fred van de Laer, was also a Dakar driver. He passed away in 2020. “I’m sure he would have been very proud,” she said.
She acknowledged the increased interest towards their team over the past few days. “I scheduled four more interviews this week,” she said. “It’s nice to be able to share our story, especially since the Dakar is so big in the Netherlands. You can see that people really care about it here.”
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