Halfway-point at the Dakar: 19-year-old Aliyyah Koloc running strong in the highest offroad class amongst the big stars
Dakar
January 13, 2024
  • Aliyyah Koloc successfully finished week 1 of the challenging Dakar Rally in the Ultimate car category, competing with the greatest of off-road rallyin
  • After stage 6, the 19-year-old is 35th in the Ultimate class and 16th overall in the FIA World Rally-Raid Championship
  • She finished the grueling 2-day stage, known as Chrono48, in an impressive 15th place; and a 9th place in the FIA World Rally-Raid Championship, her best Dakar result to date

Today is a rest day at the Dakar. After her Dakar debut in the T3 Lightweight Prototype category in January of last year, Aliyyah Koloc, who is driving for Buggyra ZM Racing, successfully handled the first week of what is only her second Dakar Rally. Racing in the highest class of offroad rallying for the first time, she is 35th overall in the Ultimate class and 16th overall in the FIA World Rally-Raid Championship rankings before starting the second week tomorrow. 

With her experienced co-driver, Frenchman Sébastien Delaunay, Aliyyah has been successfully handling the sand and dunes of Saudi Arabia so far. After seven days of racing, she has experienced her ups and downs, some technical issues, and has been facing cold nights and long days. But it is a special event. “I am really enjoying my Dakar experience”, said Aliyyah after finishing the Chrono48. “It has been challenging at times, but I also had great results and experiences.

Martin Koloc, Buggyra’s CEO and Team Principal, summarizes the first week of the Dakar: “We have been handling the first half of the Dakar, including the chrono stage, really well. Unfortunately, we lost some long hours in the beginning due to a technical failure but that doesn’t really matter. Aliyyah is learning more each kilometer she spends in the car, she is getting faster and faster. The team is settling in nicely, we are all working hand in hand. In fact, it is the first time for us as a factory team, Buggyra working with Red-Lined, developing our performance and doing really well.

Aliyyah has really surprised everybody with the results she has achieved so far, including the big names. Particularly in the dunes, Aliyyah has shown that she is fully competitive, but I don’t expect the same competitiveness from the car in the second half of the Dakar with the long fast tracks as we are the only car with an atmospheric engine, and obviously, we are lacking the top speed compared to the turbos. But that doesn’t really matter. Aliyyah’s performance is great, she is getting faster, and next year we will come back with a faster car. We didn’t expect her to be so competitive that quickly, that’s why we decided on the atmospheric car for her first Dakar as it is a reliable and tested car but, in a turbo, she would be even faster for sure.”

Let’s have a look at how Aliyyah’s Dakar has been so far:

Prologue

This year’s Dakar Rally started with a 27-kilometre prologue in Al-Ula. In her Red-Lined REVO T1+ car with start number 239, Aliyyah was able to match the legend that is three-time winner Carlos Sainz. The 19-year-old set a time within a second of “El Matador” and finished 35th.“I’m satisfied with how we performed,” said Aliyyah afterwards. “We made a few mistakes, and we want to work on that, but I feel confident with the new car and look forward to the first stage.”

Day 1

On the first stage, Aliyyah tackled the demanding course skillfully, securing 37th place in the Ultimate class. Gaining confidence with every kilometer, she reached the bivouac after dark due to an earlier collision of another car with a spectator at the start. Despite the late finish, she felt happy with her performance. She had been able to navigate the rocky terrain, avoiding both a puncture and a near accident when the Buggyra crew encountered a buggy driving in the opposite direction amidst dust. It was only thanks to Aliyyah’s quick reflexes that a crash could be prevented.

Day 2

Aliyyah started with a strong pace, matching those of her competitors. But at kilometer 312, her car suffered a front axle damage. Despite this setback, the Buggyra ZM Racing crew was determined to continue. Aliyyah and her navigator Sébastien Delaunay worked tirelessly to repair the car amidst tough conditions and successfully resumed their race, heading towards the finish line. After this strenuous self-repair effort, they crossed the finish line in 61st position in the Ultimate category, 59th overall.

Day 3 After her tough second day, Aliyyah bounced back impressively in the third stage, tackling an extremely difficult track with numerous rocks, narrow sections between trees, and challenging dunes with dust everywhere. Her navigator Sébastien Delaunay explained their day with colorful words: “Imagine being in a mixer for five hours, with rocks and dust added in – that’s more or less what we experienced today. It was a nightmare.” Despite those conditions, the Buggyra crew finished in 40th position of the Ultimate car category and in 52nd overall.

Day 4

Aliyyah continued her impressive performance on the fourth stage of the Dakar, securing the 30th fastest time in the top Ultimate category. This marked her best performance yet on her debut in this category, a result which she would improve upon in the coming days.

It was very, very fast today. Over the last 20 kilometers, there were some really nice dunes. We had a small puncture on the rocks at the beginning, so we had to change the tire. I really like these fast and flowing stages, it was really fun. There was just an awful lot of dust on the track and sometimes we got stuck behind a car. That slowed us down a lot and we lost some time. But that’s just part of the Dakar and I’m happy with today,” explained Aliyyah at the end of Day 4.

Day 5

On Day 5, Aliyyah improved upon her best result of the day before, finishing in 24th position, just 11 minutes behind four-time event winner Nasser Al Attiyah. This result moved her up to 50th overall.

I feel very, very good. I enjoyed it a lot today,” said the 19-year-old. “The way to the start of the special stage was really long, but Seb drove most of the time, so it was a pretty relaxing morning. The stage was all about dunes, and they were a lot of fun. They weren’t particularly hard, just nice and smooth, although some were broken, requiring us to be cautious. I was careful not to take any risks or damage the car, but still tried to maintain speed. We passed several cars and trucks. Being just 11 minutes behind the first car – and that’s Nasser – is really great for me. We’re competing at the highest level, and everyone is happy with our pace.”

Day 6

The first part of the crucial sixth stage of the Dakar Rally demonstrated that Aliyyah is capable of competing with the best in her debut in the top Ultimate class. The Red-Lined REVO T1+ driver achieved an excellent 20th place in the opening part of the stage, also known as Chrono48. She skillfully navigated the treacherous dunes of the Empty Quarter desert, avoiding technical issues. 

It was an extremely long day. The track was entirely dunes. We only lost two places today, which was a maximum of five minutes. Our goal was to cover at least 350 kilometers, and we reached 400 kilometers. That’s great. We have only 150 kilometers left tomorrow. It was a chaotic stage, but I’m glad we completed it. We saw many broken or stationary cars along the way. It’s fantastic that our car had no problems. Being here in the bivouac with stars like Romain Dumas and other race favorites is significant. It shows that we are on the right path,” said the 19-year-old.

Day 7

Aliyyah successfully completed the most challenging stage of this year’s Dakar Rally in a sensational 15th place in the top Ultimate category. Without the technical issues at the start of the event, she would certainly be even higher up in the standings.

I am very happy it’s finally over. It was a very long day yesterday. Today it was shorter. I’m very tired, but really, really happy,” said a delighted Aliyyah at the finish line.

Week Two ahead

After having recharged her batteries on the rest day, Aliyyah is looking forward to the second and final week of the Dakar. “It is a rest day today. I think it’s well deserved for everyone. I’m going to work on my fitness, rest, eat, sleep, and spend some time with the team, getting ready for the second week,” said Aliyyah. Her target is to finish her second Dakar and to clock some more fast times along the way. Week 1 showed that she is more than capable of doing so.

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