China’s Chery will be the first ever Chinese brand to enter the venerable Dakar Rally.
After the Paris-Dakar Rally had been canceled in 2008 for fear of terrorist attacks, the world’s roughest race moved to South America in 2009. For good, as it seems. The 2010 edition will start on New Year’s Day in Buenos Aires, to return (with a considerably thinned-out field) to Buenos Aires on January 16. The route is some 9,000km/5600m long. Four of the 14 legs of the race will be spent in the Atacama Desert. The Andes will be crossed two times at altitudes of about 4,700m. Team Chery will send 4 cars:
Two X5 race cars, one X5 conductor car and one H5 support car. Leading the driver lineup will be Ningjun Lu, a five time Dakar veteran.
All cars are “Rely” SUVs. Rely is a sub-brand created by Chery for its home market’s high-end commercial vehicle segment. Besides Rely, Chery’s brand portfolio consists of oddly named brands such as “Riich” for their premium passenger car brand, and “Karry” for their compact car brand.
The real Dakar Rally used to be owned by a Mitsubishi Pajero piloted by French teams. The 2009 Rally was won by a Volkswagen Touareg that shared nothing but the name with VW’s Touareg.
The Dakar Rally is also one of the deadliest. Amongst its most prominent victims: Thierry Sabine, the man who invented the Dakar Rally. He died in a helicopter crash during the 1986 Dakar Rally.