Women racing 2023 Dakar Rally – final line-up in bike and car categories – Part One of Two

Women racing 2023 Dakar Rally – final line-up in bike and car categories – Part One of Two

Women racing 2023 Dakar Rally – final line-up in bike and car categories – Part One of Two. In 3 days time, these women and their Teams will take on board the greatest challenge to complete the world’s most grueling race over the course of 15 days in the desert sands of Saudi Arabia.

Sandra Gomez #56 in Bike category Image: @rieju_official

Across categories of Bike, Car, Lightweight Prototype, SSV, Quad and Truck classifications which include separate class for Women, these finely tuned female rider’s, driver’s, co-driver’s and Team crew test their parameters of reaching goals immeasurable to fans and followers watching track-side.

From planning 12 months prior to race, to logistical nightmare of securing financial and resources to enter, such a group of women face what lies ahead with courage, committment and strength of conviction to finish the journey with best possible performance on track.

In Bike category, Dutch rider Mirjam Pol #44 enters her 10th Dakar with quiet satisfaction that build-up this season has not only gone to plan, but has produced successful results as well. Mirjam won 2022 Women’s FIM Baja’s World Cup along with 2022 Women’s World Rally Raid Championship sending clear message that the Husqvarna Rally rider has plenty to fight for having finished 49th in General Bike category in Dakar 2022.

Making second consecutive entry in Dakar, Sandra Gomez #56 has taken full advantage of extra time on her KTM 450 Rally bike in preparation for Dakar in a couple of days time. Having experienced all that Dakar offers – finishing credible 62nd in 2022 – Sandra makes adaptation of style seem matter of fact, given the Spanish rider has carved successful career in FIM Trials GP, Enduro, Hard Enduro, and now Rally.

Laia Sanz competes in her 13th Dakar in Car category Image: Team

South African rider Kirsten Landman #90 takes on the formidable task of competing in 2023 Dakar Rally in Malle Moto – Original by Motul category which means with No Assistance. Regarded as the toughest test of rider’s ability to race and manage all mechanical repairs with no help or support by Team crew, Kirsten states she is more than up for the challenge with eyes firmly fixed on making it to final Stage 14 finish line.

With only 3 female rider’s in Bike category out of 171, Car classification spearheads women behind the wheel with Dakar Rally Legend Laia Sanz #222 competing in her 13th consecutive Dakar. With such a phenomenal record of racing 11 Dakar’s in Bike category from 2011 to 2021, before switching to Car in 2022 to present day, Laia emits sheer will power to perform at the best of her capabilities under true sense of endurance racing for over a decade.

From Paraguay, Andrea Lafaria #241 will enter her 3rd Dakar in Auto classification having climbed rankings of 50th in 2021 to 32nd in 2022 Dakar. Stating with utmost enthusiasm, she is out for ‘Dakar revenge’, Andrea confirms she has improved her physical and mental preparation to race the sands of Saudi Arabia, including testing the car in Peru’s dunes with co-driver Ashely Garcia Chavez.

Monica Plaza competes with her father Manual Plaza as co-driver in 2023 Dakar car category Image: Team

Debut entry Magdalena Zajac #269 will be Poland’s only second female driver to race Dakar. Buoyed by passion to race, including winning the T1 Open category in 2021 Silk Way Rally, Magdalena admits racing in desert sands, dunes, and over course of 15 days will be well outside her comfort zone. So much so, the inspiring driver states ‘I will be happy if I manage to get a medal at the finish line – I will be happy if I reach that finish line at all‘.

Rounding out female line-up in Car category will be daughter and father duo of Monica Plaza #256, co-driver for Manual Plaza in Sodicars Team’s T1.2 Prototype Cross Country 4×2 car classification. Competing in her 4th Dakar along-side Manuel, the Spanish driver/co-driver, navigator, and cyclist has clocked up serious mileage in Rally competitions this season to tackle the challenges ahead in what has been described as the hardest Dakar since the race was founded in 1978.

The 45th edition begins on December 31 with Prologue and Stages 1-14 from January 1-15. Part Two next. Header photo: 2023 Dakar Rally Image: ASO.

Words: Sharon Cox.

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