• After stage 8, the 18-year-old is 36th in the overall standings of the T3 category
• Her best stage result was P7 on Day 4
• Praise from Dakar veterans on her driving skills on sand
• Numerous technical issues prevented a better result
Today was a rest day at the Dakar after half of the event and eight stages. For 18-year-old Aliyyah Koloc, it is the first time that she participates behind a wheel in this legendary rally, after having attended the three previous years as a spectator and part of her team, Buggyra ZM Racing. The first week saw her battling it out not only on the track but also with her car. From punctures to engine problems and even a roll in her buggy, she has seen it all, and continued.
“Despite all the issues, I am enjoying the experience”
After a week of driving, Aliyyah sums up her experience: “The first week was very difficult. I was expecting it to be like this, as I attended the last three events, so I knew somehow what to expect, but driving yourself is obviously completely different. We’ve also had our fair share of car issues but I am also learning a lot because everything is new to me. I didn’t have any big surprises though, good or bad, and overall, I am really enjoying the experience.”
Her highlight of the Dakar so far happened on stage 4 when she won a fight on the track with her hero, Cristina Gutierrez. Driving for the Red Bull Can-Am Factory Team, the Spaniard is currently sixth in the T3 overall standings and finished third in that category last year: “That was a very good day. Not only did I finish the day in P7, my best ranking so far, I also got to fight it out on the track with Cristina (Gutierrez). She is amazing and I look up to her as a racer. So, racing alongside her on the track and then managing to pass her was an incredible moment for me.”
Mechanical issues and driving on rocks
Living all these new experiences, concentrating on the driving on what is often an unfamiliar terrain, while having to deal with a lot of car issues, have marked Aliyyah the most so far. “It is incredible how many issues we had with the car this first week. But we have been able to repair it and continue every day, so that is the most important thing for me. I actually helped the mechanics with some repairs and learned a lot. But overall, I focus on the learning experience, on the tough situations, as every time I master one, it will help me for the next one.”
Apart from technical issues, there is one other thing that Aliyyah points out as being particularly difficult: “The rocks. I have very little experience driving on rocks, so gradually I am learning how to navigate them safely but still as fast as possible. Stéphane Duplé, my navigator, helps me a lot with his experience on how to tackle those rocks and the rest of the terrain as well.”
Positive feedback from Dakar veterans
However, it has not all been difficult. Despite this being her first Dakar, Aliyyah has shown some amazing speed and skills. Experienced veterans like Josef Machacek or Martin Soltys have testified that she has incredible talent driving on sand. Particularly Soltys, driving in the truck category for Buggyra ZM Racing, was impressed by her skills when she raced against him on Stage 8. Also Red Bull TV noticed the 18-year-old and interviewed her for their daily Dakar shows (https://www.redbull.com/int-en/videos/dakar-rally-2023-dakar-daily-stage-7).
Expectations for the final part of the Dakar
Having recharged her batteries on the rest day, Aliyyah is looking forward to the second and final part of the Dakar. Her target at the start of the event was to finish and that hasn’t changed. She says: “I am approaching the final part of the Dakar with a positive mindset. We had a lot of problems but it has been a good experience nevertheless. I’m looking forward to the new challenges that certainly await me from tomorrow onwards. There will be the marathon stage which will be very interesting, but I am also very nervous about it. But I am telling myself that it will be fine!”
To watch Aliyyah’s interview with Red Bull TV (from 4:09): https://www.redbull.com/int-en/videos/dakar-rally-2023-dakar-daily-stage-7