Just like the last 39 runnings, the 40th Dakar Rally was full of huge upsets and overwhelming victories, and in the side-by-side category, the South Racing Can-Am Maverick X3 Turbo R piloted by Brazilians Reinaldo Varela and Gustavo Gugelmin claimed victory.
The side-by-side category quickly emerged as a two-horse race between Varela and Patrice Garrouste from the Xtreme Polaris Factory Team. Over the course of the rally, Garrouste had a total of five stage victories, the exact same number as Varela, but the Polaris ended up finishing the rally 57 minutes back from the front. Though in the beginning stages Varela was trailing, by stage five the Brazilian team took the lead and would not relinquish it for the rest of the race.
Illustrating that this really was a two machine race, the third place side-by-side of Claude Fournier finished a whopping ten hours back from first place.
We had the chance to ask the Managing Director of South Racing, Scott Abraham, some questions about what it takes to win at the Dakar Rally and what the biggest challenges were for his team this year.
Read on for the unedited interview.
How did you find navigating the race this year? Did you have any navigational trouble?
Navigation is always key to a good Dakar and for the past two years the ASO had refocussed the race around navigation. We lost some time during the event looking for waypoints but not more than what we consider in normal range. But as we saw in the bike race, navigation has the ability to change the complete outcome of the event.
What was the toughest terrain you faced during the Dakar this year?
For the drivers for the sure the dunes in Peru were a challenge but the power and light weight of the Maverick X3 gave us a big advantage here. For the team, the longer Argentine stages of 405km (250 miles) really challenge man and machine and the durability of the cars. An important point to note is the extreme changes in climate that we experience on Dakar, hot days in the dunes and then negative temperatures in Bolivia with altitudes of over 4700m (over 15,000 feet!) and then 40°c (104F) temperatures in Argentina.
What was the best thing about your Can-Am Maverick X3 and how did it help you win the race?
The power and weight of the vehicle are the two key performance items and then one needs the reliability to get through each day of racing. We ran the engine in the standard 172 horsepower configuration and the vehicles were on the minimum weight stipulated by ASO of 850KG (1873 lbs) without fuel, drivers and on-board equipment. The suspension is restricted to 18” Front and 20” rear by regulations as to balance the playing field across the different brands.
Did you guys get competitive knowing that it was all Polaris’ chasing you?
For sure! We went into Dakar with the goal to finish and to bring the two team Maverick X3’s to the podium in Cordoba. We knew that we had a very good package and the design and performance of the X3 was the ace in the pocket. The Xtreme + Polaris Factory Team kept us on our toes the complete race and we kept fighting until the end and then controlled the race for the last 4 stages. The Dakar is a marathon and not a sprint and the drivers need to have the right mindset to bring the vehicle to the finish.
You raced at some very high altitudes this year. How did that affect your race?
On the performance side this was noted most on the engine and the CVT setup, we worked specifically on the altitude correction so that we would have optimum power at all altitudes. The other challenge was to the crews the temperatures dropped to below zero and we experienced flooded rivers, hail storms, snow and much thinner air. We installed the windscreens into the vehicles for the Bolivian stages to make things a little more comfortable.
Why did you go with the Can-Am Maverick for the Dakar Rally?
The Maverick X3 is arguably the most advanced SxS on the market at the moment it has been designed around performance and not converted or upgraded from a utility vehicle. The Maverick X3 showed that it could stand up to anything that Dakar could throw at it and for sure we have learnt a lot and will come back stronger with the 2019 version.
What was the highlight of the race for each of you?
For sure winning is always a wonderful feeling but the highlight is being part of a team who never gave up. The drivers are the ones who drive great or bad stages but the mechanics and support crews are the ones who work through the night to get the vehicles ready for the next day. The complete team effort from the crew on the event to the support from BRP and the Racing department during the event make this special feeling and for sure the highlight of the event.
WIll you be back in the Dakar next year?
For sure South Racing Can-Am will be back next year and with more Maverick X3’s. We will race several international events this starting with the Merzouga Rally in April and then continue the development of the Maverick X3 for Dakar 2019.
Photos by South Racing Can-Am / BRP Brazil