Meet the Sandrider, a totally bespoke vehicle designed to take on the toughest rally raids in the world, all the while looking like something that’s escaped from the set of the next Star Wars film.
The Sandrider is being entered in collaboration with British outfit Prodrive, which since 2021 has taken the Ian Callum-designed BRX Hunter to several podium finishes in the rally raid. They’ll be bringing that knowledge to Dacia’s bonkers new factory effort.
Dacia says the car is designed around its core value of “essentialism” - in other words, it’s given it everything it needs and nothing more. To that end, Dacia and Prodrive have done away with any bodywork they deem unnecessary. There’s almost zero overhang front and rear, and the stubby bonnet drops away sharply, all of which should help with everything from approach angles to forward visibility. The whole thing is remarkably compact, with a wheelbase of 3000mm and an overall length of 4140mm - that’s over half a metre shorter than the Audi RS Q e-tron E2 that took the overall win at this year’s Dakar.
If that sci-fi shape looks familiar, it’s because we had an unknowing preview of it with 2022’s Manifesto concept car.
On the inside, too, everything is designed to be as robust and minimalistic as possible. The dashboard is modular, so each of the six crew members split between the three cars will be able to tailor it to their needs and comfort.
There are all sorts of brilliantly simple ideas built into the Sandrider in order to make life in the searing desert heat easier for both car and crew: the seats are upholstered in anti-bacterial fabrics that will apparently self-regulate humidity and anti-infrared pigments integrated into the body should also help keep things cool. Underneath, there’s a magnetic plate built into the car’s bodywork designed to stop small metal parts from getting lost in deep sand during repairs.
There’s also a big emphasis on making the Sandrider as environmentally friendly as possible. By removing any superfluous exterior parts and crafting what is there from carbon fibre, weight is kept as low as possible, although we don’t yet have an exact figure. The car will run on renewable fuel.
Tucked away somewhere in that minimalist body is a 3.0-litre twin-turbocharged V6 driving all four wheels through a six-speed sequential gearbox. It makes 360bhp and around 398lb ft of torque. To help make the best of that power over incredibly rough terrain, the Sandrider has 350mm of suspension travel and will wear a set of 37-inch BF Goodrich all-terrain tyres.
The Sandrider will run in the Dakar’s top T1 category, specifically the Ultimate class, which is open to vehicles running alternative fuel or propulsion methods. That means it’ll be a real challenger for the overall win, so Dacia isn’t messing about with the driver lineup: five-time Dakar winner Nasser Al-Attiyah; Cristina Guttierez Herrero, an eight-time Dakar veteran at the age of 32 and only the second woman ever to win her class at the event; and some bloke called Sébastien Loeb.
It will enter the Dakar from 2025’s event next January, but we’ll get to see it race before then: its competitive debut is pencilled in for the Rallye du Maroc in October this year, part of the World Rally-Raid Championship.
This won’t actually be Dacia’s first Dakar effort: the original Duster ran the famous event several times, although it was entered with the Renault badging that it was sold with in certain markets.