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Dakar Classic: hail to the little ones

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Over in Saudi Arabia, Dakar Classic followed in the footsteps of the big Dakar. And among the participants, we focus on the brave Fiat Pandas and Citroën Visas… who made it to the finish we’ll have you know.

Last year was the first time a Fiat Panda made it to the finish of a Dakar rally… ever. Quite the accomplishment, even if it was in 106th place in the Dakar Classic standings. A finish is a finish. And for participants Juan Morera and Lidia Ruba it must have been quite a good training, since the Spaniards won this year’s Dakar Classic. No, not in a Panda, in a Toyota HDJ 80.

Photo ASO

Fiat Panda

So, once it was clear the small Fiat Panda 4×4 was a worthy participant, more tiny cars showed up for this year’s Dakar Classic. The Swiss-based Team Desert Endurance Motorsport prepared two first-generation 4×4 Fiat Pandas for the Italian crews of Francesco and Alessandro Guanti and Marco Ernesto Leva and Alexia Giugnia.

#717 ABRIAL Francois (fra), BELTRAMI Cyril (fra), Abrial, Citroen, Dakar Classic, action, #718 ABRIAL Mathieu (fra), VIGUIER Thomas (fra), Annecy Moteur, Citroen, Dakar Classic, action during the Stage 13 of the Dakar Classic 2023 between Shaybah and Al-Hofuf. Photo ASO

Citroën Visa

Over at Annecy Moteur in France, another bold project got going last year. The team built up two replica Citroën Visas, copies of the Visas with which Citroën took part in the Paris-Dakar rally in 1984. One of these was a Group B Citroën Visa and can be considered a first taste for Citroën, who would go on the be victorious with the ZX prototypes in the nineties.

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#763 GUASTI Francesco (ita), GUASTI Alessandro (ita), Tecnosport – Desert Endurance Motorsport, Fiat, Dakar Classic, action, #764 LEVA MARCO Ernesto (ita), GIUGNI Alexia (ita), Tecnosport – Desert Endurance Motorsport, Fiat, Dakar Classic, during Stage 13. Photo ASO


The other two Citroën Visas were more regular Chrono version. Both the Group B and the Chrono formed the basis for these replicas, down to their original ‘Neff’ decoration. First-timers Mathieu Abrial and Thomas Viguier started strong in their Group B Citroën Visa, at one point even finishing a stage in twelfth place. Ultimately, they would end up the best finishers of the small cars, finishing 46th overall. The other Citroën Visa, slightly heavier, was driven by Mathieu’s father François Abrial, co-driven by Cyril Beltrami. François Abrial: “The main advantage of the Visas was their lightness. We could start with just 90 litres of fuel on board.”

Photo ASO

Abrial and Beltrami even finished one stage in sixth place, but ultimately had to settle for 52nd overall. The Pandas came in 62nd and 64th place, on 80 crews at the finish. All heroes, we tell you.

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