By on December 17, 2009

Last second of the VW Race Touareg. Picture courtesy

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:

The Chinese contender. Picture courtesy chinacartimes.comTwo 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.

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12 Comments on “China’s Chery To Enter Dakar Rally...”

  • avatar

    When one of your weaknesses is a lack of quality/reliability (or the perception of it anyway) the LAST thing you do is go racing, and in the Dakar?

  • avatar

    Unless of course, one is actually trying to improve through learning some hard practical lessons. 

    Kudos for their willingness to try, unlike, say, GM. 

  • avatar

    TDI baby
    Ya really, the SUV.  Somehow.

  • avatar

    It’s a worthy gamble. Nobody talks about the many cars that lose the Dakar. They only talk about the winner.  The entry by Chery is getting a lot of rah-rah press in China.

  • avatar

    I don’t think even Chery believes they have any chance of winning any time soon. 

  • avatar

    Motorsport “proving” is completely overrated, IMHO. The idea that giving it run will “teach” them something is just about non-existent. If they wanted race prep, you can buy it from companies like Prodrive or Lotus or Cosworth or any number of respected below-the-line organisations.
    Having worked in manufacturer run motorsport, one of the concerns of the providers of the cash (ie management/BoD)  is “don’t make us look bad”.
    Market research suggests buyers who have a knowledge of the brand/product’s participation in particular motorsport are more greatly influenced by negative outcomes (ie DNF/failure) than positive outcomes (ie wins/reliabiliy). Ferrari had some of their worst sales years and nearly gained an almost terminal reputation as fragile and unreliable during their dark years in F1. Toyota would not re-commit to rally unless they could win. Suzuki nearly stopped Superbike participation because of embarassing DNFs. The list goes on and on.

  • avatar

    Chery likely thinks they have a better than 75% chance of finishing the race.  That’s about all this means, and it’s a publicity gathering exercise.  It makes me think of the cross-continent races that US manufactures competed in during the early part of the last century.  Racing didn’t improve the breed necessarily but being tough enough to finish made you look good in the eyes of the public.

  • avatar
    Nicholas Weaver

    Actually, this is PERFECT… The Dakar is a strange race, although winning is a big deal, failure is NOT considered a disaster, simply because the failure rate is so damn high.  Watch “Race to Dakar” to get an idea just how brutally insane this thing is.

    Thus if the Chery vehicle makes it to the end?

    Great, huge, wonderful.  Massive press, big kudos, “we build tough-ass vehicles…”

    If the chery vehicles die midway thrugh?  

    So what, HALF the cars die.  At least.  And they only have two entered competitors, so it will be no big deal…  Just having the Cojones to do a factory entry at all is a big deal.

  • avatar

    Perhaps they’re taking a page from Yutaka Katayama’s book.  Mr. K generated huge publicity and helped get Nissan (Datsun) started exporting cars by entering the automaker in a road rally in Australia,  and–winning .

    PS, that picture looks like someone’s leg is dangling out the bottom of the car.

  • avatar

    But…what if they win? How mind-blowing would THAT be?

  • avatar

    I was wondering when the first chinese car company would take part in some international motorsports. Hats off to them and I wish them every success. Getting the brand name known in the rest of the world is going to be important, and this is the perfect international stage for doing that.

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