There will be an all-female truck team in the upcoming Dakar Rally this January. The team, comprising three Dutch women, will be led by Anja van Loon, with Floor Maten as co-driver and Marije van Ettekoven as the 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 super exciting!” said Anja van Loon to NL Times.
The Dakar Rally is an off-road endurance event spanning multiple days, with competitors facing harsher terrains than those in conventional rallying. The event includes five categories: motorbikes, quads, cars, lightweight vehicles, and trucks. In 2024, Saudi Arabia will host the event for the fifth consecutive year, running from 5 to 19 January.
Anja van Loon informed NL Times that their team is actively involved in various preparations. “We are currently developing the truck. We aim to be ready by September, as our first drive together will be in October,” she stated. As part of their preparation, the team will compete in the Rallye du Maroc from 12 to 18 October. The truck, Iveco Powerstar, is built and maintained by Team De Rooy.
The 38-year-old woman from Eersel, Noord-Brabant, explained that preparation primarily takes place in the Netherlands, but the team often travels abroad to train. “Training in the Netherlands is impossible due to the lack of suitable grounds,” van Loon explained. They instead opt for facilities in countries like France, Spain, Germany, and Poland.
Anja van Loon will be accompanied by Floor Maten as co-driver and Marije van Ettekoven as mechanic. “It clicks really well. We have a super bond,” van Loon said. Although all-female teams have participated in the Dakar Rally in the cars and buggies categories, an all-female truck team is unprecedented. “Things have changed over the past year. We see more women now,” she noted.
The team will not only be 100 percent women but also 100 percent Dutch. “Communication is very good. It is nice we can speak in Dutch,” she said. She recalled last year’s experience where she raced alongside Ukrainian driver Dmitry Tsyro in the lightweight vehicles category. “Then everything was in English of course. This time it’ll be different.” They finished the rally in 14th position.
2024 will be her second Dakar rally as a driver. But van Loon’s connection to the Dakar Rally is deep-rooted. Her husband, Erik van Loon has participated in the Dakar Rally since 2009, while her father, Fried van de Laar, was also a Dakar driver. He passed away in 2020. “I’m sure he would’ve been so proud,” she said.
She acknowledged the increasing attention towards their team over the past few days. “I’ve scheduled four more interviews this week,” she stated. “It’s nice if we can share our story, especially since Dakar is so big in the Netherlands. You can see that people really care about it here.”
https://nltimes.nl/2023/08/27/dutch-truck-crew-set-dakar-rallys-first-female-team Dutch truck crew set to be Dakar Rally’s first all-female team