02 janeiro 2007

Loprais Tatra Team heads into another Dakar adventure




Twenty-one year after the first splendid participation of Tatra in the legendary Dakar, the Czechs are still here to attack top spots of the overall ranking. Dakar 2007 is to be no exception. Along with a handful of technical advancements, a new, younger line-up is to continue the tradition of Tatra in the Dakar.

Nineteen times the Tatra flag was carried by the legendary six-time winner, Karel Loprais. In Dakar 2006, however, a crash, in which Loprais had to left the path when trying not to hit a motorbiker, caused severe back injuries and eventually a withdrawal from the race. In the 29th edition of the rally, Karel Loprais will join the team as a driver of the supporting press car, always ready to add his comments and advice to help his followers.

The team’s racing truck will be driven by Ales Loprais, Karel’s 27-year-old nephew. Ales‘s contribution to the team’s efforts has so far been mostly behind the team‘s performance, maily as a testing driver and a co-manager of the organisational and logistic backup. He is no rookie behind the racing wheel, either. At Rally Orpi Maroc 2006 he tested the truck’s modifications in a splendid battle.

"The situation after Dakar 2006 and Karel’s spinal injury made us speed up our plans to raise a new generation of team members who will continue our tradition of fighting for the top," team manager Milan Loprais said. "In spite of his youth, Ales has been working hard with the team for a long time and it’s his turn now. However, with more trucks available, I believe Karel could be back for Dakar 2008 and they both might carry the Tatra flag high."

Ales Loprais will be joined by a long-time and experienced Tatra technician, Petr Gilar, who will serve both as a navigator and a mechanic. "We are both going to be specialists in our own areas. Only the tire replacement when having a puncture could last a bit longer, otherwise it will do also in this two-man lineup. Plus, a 100-kilogram weight saving on the front axle is not insignificant," Ales Loprais points out.

Always behind the success, the classic assistance Tatra 815 6x6 will back the team up in the bivouacs, carrying all the necessary accessories to facilitate the maintenance. Built in 1987 and having participated in as many as 17 Dakars, this "granny" truck is still ready to perform its traditionally reliable service and still belong to the fastest assistance vehicles. Tatra 6x6 will be driven by Martin Kahanek, Karel’s younger son Leo Loprais, and Petr Capka, a mechanic and a producer of all logo stickers on all racing Tatras.

The backup will be topped by a press car No. 928, Nissan Navara. A four-man crew with Karel Loprais being the most competent driver and his brother Milan coordinating the team‘s strategy will also include two journalists, Petr Dufek and Jiri Vintr to provide sufficient reporting to the crowds of cheerful fans in the Czech Republic.

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