Preparing for the world-renowned Dakar Rally, 19-year-old Aliyyah Koloc took plenty of lessons on board and scored a solid result at her prestigious home event, the Dubai International Baja, last weekend.
At the wheel of her Red-Lined REVO T1+ car, competing in the top category, Aliyyah from Dubai and South African co-driver Riaan Greyling finished 10th overall in the international field, contested by many leading stars including multiple Dakar champion Nasser Al-Attiyah, who won the event. Despite climbing a learning curve, Aaliyah finished ahead of some factory crews and many other drivers with more experience than her.
The Dubai International Baja, covering some similar dunes and tracks to those that competitors will face at the Dakar Rally in January in nearby Saudi Arabia, covered a route of nearly 700 kilometres, of which just under 350 kilometres were competitive, from Friday to Sunday. However, the dunes in Dubai tend to be smaller than those that will be seen on the fortnight-long Dakar Rally, making this very much a warm-up event.
Throughout the rally, both the car and driver performed well, with Aliyyah banking valuable experience at her last test Baja before the actual Dakar, which she will be contesting for the second time. It was also Aaliyah’s second time at the Dubai International Baja, and her first at the wheel of a top category vehicle, after having previously completed another event with the T1+ car in South Africa – where the Buggyra ZM Racing car is based – to get to grips with the category.
Despite the formidable challenge of competing at the sharp end of the field, Aaliyah remained comfortably in charge of her machine en route to a well-deserved top 10 finish, which augurs well for the epic Dakar marathon that gets underway in less than two months.
Aliyyah said: “We learned a lot from this rally, and I’m generally happy with everything we did. The second day was better than the first one, where we had a few little mistakes and a couple of small navigational problems. The more driving you do the more beneficial it is, especially as I don't have a lot of experience of this car. I think I need to be a bit more aggressive with it; for now I feel I’m being too gentle, but it’s better to be safe than sorry! Both events I have done so far with this car, here in Dubai and in South Africa, have definitely helped me grow as a driver, so I’m pleased about that, although we need to drive more in the desert to get more out of the car.”
Her team principal Martin Koloc added: “There were some good bits and some bad bits, but Aliyyah has been improving a lot and that is the main thing; we also found some new areas to focus on. In the end, you cannot fake it: Aliyyah needs the kilometres and this is what we are working towards. Now we aim to give her as much more preparation as possible before the Dakar so that she can have some more testing and really get under the skin of the car.”
The Dakar Rally takes place from January 5-19, 2024, in Saudi Arabia: starting in the city of Al-UIa, crossing the country in the direction of the Empty Quarter and finishing in Yanbu on the shores of the Red Sea.
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