Ekström to contest 2021 Dakar Rally

2016 World RX champion to compete in SSV class to prepare for Extreme E season


Mattias Ekström will make his Dakar Rally debut in January after announcing he will compete in the rally raid classic at the wheel of a X-Raid Team run SSV prototype.

The 2016 World Rallycross Champion will race alongside 2018 Junior World Rally Champion Emil Bergkvist in the Saudia Arabia-based event, which runs from January 3-15.

It is also the first time X-Raid – which won the Dakar in 2020 with Carlos Sainz and Lucas Cruz – has ventured outside of the top T1 category, working in collaboration with Yamaha to develop the YXZ1000R prototype side-by-side (SSV) vehicle.

Ekström, a double DTM touring car champion, says he will be using his maiden Dakar outing to prepare for the inaugural season of Extreme E in which he will compete with Cupra.

“It has always been a dream of ours to drive the Dakar,” Ekström said.

“I have contested so many different races in my life. What better way than to ask Sven, who I have known for about 20 years. We were finally able to get together a budget to race a SxS, and the new X-raid project gave us a good base.

“We are really looking forward to the Dakar 2021. It is also the perfect preparation for the start of the Extreme E season in Saudi Arabia. After all, I have never driven a race car on sand or in the dunes before.”

X-Raid says that its Yamaha Racing Rally Supported Team protoype offers a “race-ready alternative” to other SSV vehicles, with the YXZ1000R undergoing various developments ahead of the Dakar next month.

The vehicle, which has been developed by Yamaha Motor Europe, is based on the standard YXZ1000R with X-Raid set to conduct its initial shakedown tests of the upgraded vehicle in next weekend’s Baja Ha’il 2, which is part of the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies series.

The new prototype is wider than its predecessor and features a longer wheelbase and lower centre of gravity. The driveline and 998cc inline three-cylinder engine ‘remain largely unchanged’ according to the team, while a new tubular chassis has been fitted to meet FIA regulations.

The YXZ1000R is set to be officially revealed ahead of Baja Ha’il 2 on the weekend of the 14-15th December.

Team boss Sven Quandt believes that X-Raid’s new venture into the SSV class is a step in the right direction for the German squad.


Credit: Yamaha Motor Europe

“This project is an important step for X-raid, as we are developing a vehicle outside the Car category (T1) for the first time in the company’s history,” Quandt said.

“We have been monitoring the SxS market for a long time and I was also heavily involved in developing the regulations for this class. Now is the right time to be active in this market, together with Yamaha. We believe that this class will play a key role in crosscountry racing in the future, both for newcomers and experienced Dakar drivers, as well as for professionals.

“We are delighted to have Mattias on board, and that he is a part of this new and very exciting project. Camelia and Annett have been involved in this sport for a long time and can call on a wealth of Dakar experience. Both pairs give us the opportunity to gain a lot of experience in the coming weeks.”

The team will run two Yamaha YXZ1000Rs for the Dakar, with six-time Ladies Quad World Champion Camelia Liparoti and Annett Fischer joining Ekström and Bergkvist. Lisparoti and Fischer competed together in a standard YXZ1000R during the 2020 edition of the Dakar.

Liparoti arrives with previous Dakar experience, having made her first start in 2009, the first year the event was held in South America.

Words:Stephen Brunsdon

Photo:World RX Media