This bespoke Dacia-badged competition car is slated to compete in the Dakar Rally come 2025.
While perhaps best known for its no-frills approach to its cars, Dacia however in recent time seemed to have also developed an appetite for off-roading. And while it has attempted to scratch that itch somewhat with the newly toughened-up second-generation Duster SUV, it appears that this new hunger for the rough stuff can only be appeased by going rallying.
So in what is probably not the most affordable thing it could have done, the Romanian automaker has since decided to dust off its Manifesto buggy concept (previously showcased in 2022) and converted it into the Sandrider — a full-on Dakar-ready machine that is currently slated to giving the world’s toughest off-road race a go as soon as apparently next year.
Now in spite of the entire body being made of carbon fibre, Dacia has nevertheless claimed for this competition-spec Sandrider has been designed according to the same ‘no frills’ ethos as is synonymous with its road cars. To that end therefore, this rally buggy supposedly only the absolutely necessary body panels, which in turn sees for its maker to claim for it being 15 kg lighter than its competition.
Turning towards other similarly impressive technical facts meanwhile with this Dacia buggy, sandwiched right in front of the rear wheels of the Sandrider is a twin-turbocharged 3.0-litre V6. A power plant that is not too far removed from what is in currently its sibling brand Nissan’s Z, it is rated to send 355 hp and 540 Nm of torque to all four wheels through a six-speed sequential gearbox.
Though perhaps more interestingly regarding this twin-turbo V6 is for it to be powered by synthetic fuel provided by Aramco. The usage of this lower-carbon petrol made from renewable hydrogen with sequestered CO₂ comes amid Dacia’s wider aim to explore ‘affordable decarbonisation’.
Getting back to other cool rallying kit on this Sandraider, this rally buggy nets double wishbone suspension with 350 mm of travel and 17-inch aluminium wheels shod in 37-inch BF Goodrich rubber on each corner. Dacia has also claimed for the weight distribution weight distribution is biased towards the front axle, in order to improve traction on loose surfaces.
Moving on within, the Sandraider has been rather cleverly designed a modular dashboard that can be rearranged according to the needs of the race crew. The dashboard is finished in anti-reflective paint to reduce glare, while the Sabelt seats that are lined with anti-bacterial and humidity-regulating fabric.
To further improve comfort too amid the desert heat, anti-infrared pigments have been embedded into the Sandraider’s carbon fibre bodywork in a bid to reduce cabin temperatures. And just to show that this Dacia rally buggy has actually been designed by people with prior rallying experience, there have been other little thoughtful race-centric touches all around it, which includes a magnetic strip that allows for drivers and mechanics to safely stow wheel nuts while they change a flat tyre.
Dacia is seemingly rather committed in its ambitious rallying endeavours, as it has homologated the Sandraider in the Ultimate T1+ category. The automaker has also since turned to UK-based motorsport experts Prodrive in backing up their motorsports efforts, and has even went so far as contracting 9-time rally champion Sébastian Loeb, five-time Dakar winner Nasser Al-Attiyah and Rally-Raid World Cup winner Cristina Gutiérrez to fill its driver lineup.
The Sandrider will first be driven in anger at October’s Rallye du Maroc 2024 in Morocco. Dacia’s official W2RC team will continue to further the development of this rally buggy, before its eventual Dakar debut in the following year.