Dacia will enter the Dakar Rally from 2025, and has signed nine-time World Rally champion Sébastien Loeb and Cristina Gutiérrez as its drivers.
It becomes the latest manufacturer to join the FIA World Rally-Raid Championship, as Ford will compete from 2024 in conjunction with its long-term WRC partner M-Sport as well as Neil Woolridge Motorsport.
Toyota and Audi are current competitors in W2RC.
Dacia confirmed its Dakar entry in an online presentation on Monday, although did not confirm which model of vehicle will form the base of its challenger.
“It’s a test bed for new engines and driving solutions, but what people may not know is that yesterday’s Dakar is no longer today’s Dakar, it’s becoming a laboratory for low-carbon mobility,” said Dacia CEO Denis le Vot.
“Another reason we are taking part is because this race is like us, Dacia’s DNA fits with the Dakar, and vice versa. The race is a human, sporting and technical adventure, and Dacia is also an adventure, so we will go where you don’t expect, we will blaze our own trail, and the three characteristics of the brand fit together.
“We are robust on the outside, Dacia cars are designed for the outdoors, they have that solid, tried and tested, tried and tested reputation, and on top of that, they are environmentally friendly. We are essential because Dacia’s design appeals to everyone, just like driving one.”
Loeb and Gutiérrez both have strong Dakar experience, and have worked together in motorsport before as team-mates for Lewis Hamilton’s X44 outfit in Extreme E.
They became champions of season two last year.
Dacia’s effort will be operated by Prodrive, which ran both Loeb and Gutiérrez in XE and currently competes in rally-raid with Bahrain Raid Xtreme along with Loeb.
“I am very happy,” Loeb said.
“The Dakar is now my main goal, I did it six or seven times, a few times on the podium, but never in first place, so I hope to fight to win, and with the support of Dacia, with a real project from a car manufacturer, it is excellent news for me.
“I’m sure we will do nice things together.”