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2022: 8th

“I felt like a kid!”  

It was her destiny. To compete on the World’s greatest rally on home soil. And to become the first Saudi lady, with Mashael Al Obaidan to start and finish the rally. Dania Akeel was first invited by the Saudi motorsports federation and the Dakar organisers to come and visit the event. Several test drives and experiences on various other rallies eventually led to that big step up. Dania Akeel started her motosports career as a bike rider on circuit but she isn’t just a motorsports athlete and fanatic. Having achieved a bachelor’s degree in “Modern History and Politics” from the Royal Holloway University of London and then a Master’s degree in “International Business” at the Hult International Business School in the United-States, she combines her passion with consulting, motivational speaking and book writing. For her debut on the Dakar, the Jeddah native managed the performance to finish in the Top 10 (8th). To prepare for her second Dakar, Akeel again competed in the FIA Baja World Cup, finishing second after winning the ladies title a year before. She will again be competing alongside experienced Sergio Lafuente who first did the Dakar on a quad (5th in 2012 and 2014) before switching to the navigator seat of an SSV.  

D.A.: “It all started when the Saudi federation called me. They said: the Dakar rally is happening, we want to encourage women to participate. Would you like to come for a two day training? But I never thought of myself as a minority when it came to motorsports. There was no distinction really between us because in the end with motorsports, you have the same machines. The last Dakar was unbelievable. I really had a great time and I saw how my driving developed over the course of the 12 stages, and I was very happy to see that progression. I was very happy to go to sleep, wake up and drive, and then knowing that the next day that's all I was going to do. So I honestly felt like a kid who had the opportunity to do what he loves all day long. It went very well for me as a first timer, we were sixth of the T3 class. Then on stage seven I made a mistake. I had an issue with the turbo and didn't have enough power. So I had to change the way I drove to keep momentum going. But actually that made my driving a bit more risky. And I had an accident in the canyon which broke the front of the car, so I ended up losing a few hours fixing the car. And then for the last five days we were able to climb back up into the top ten and finish in eighth position. So it was an excellent lesson on how to maintain my calm. Sergio Lafuente is an amazing co-driver and a great person. He was an instructor more than just a co-driver. So I'll race with him again in Dakar 2023. I spent the year doing the cross country Baja World Cup, and I learnt a lot from each country because the terrain differs so much across the eight rounds. I've also done the Saudi Rally Championship. So throughout the year I hope I've had chances to improve as a driver. I hope that I've put myself in the best position possible for Dakar 2023. I realise that every year is different and there's going to be different competitors and cars in our class. Every year has its variables and I really pray for a good result. At the end of the day, it's still going to be a lot of fun because we get to drive.”

Ranking 2023

Total Dakar Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge Sonora Rally Desafio Ruta 40 Rallye du Maroc
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