Performance tuner: Overdrive racing
Assistance: Overdrive racing
Class: T1+ FIA
2021: 14th (2nd rookie)
2021: Dahaidao Super Endurance Race (3rd)
2019: China Rally Championship (3rd); Asian Baja (1st), Dongshan Bay Rally (5th), China Rally Longyou (7th), Baofeng Rally (3rd)
2018: Rally China Longyou (9th)
2017: Duolun China Auto Rally (9th), Jixi Xingkai Rally (2nd)
2016: Changchun Rally (4th), Shanxi Dazhai Rally (13th), Dengfeng Rally (9th)
2015: Silk Way Rally (1st, T3 class)
2013: Zhejiang Wuyi Rally (34th), Beijing Huairou Rally (20th), Zhangye Rally (28th), Hunan Chenzhou Rally (39th)
“The Dakar doesn't just let you finish”
Last year, Guoyu Zhang learned the hard way that things don’t always go to plan on the Dakar. The Chinese driver has been fascinated by rally-raid for almost 20 years, and started competing in offroad events over a decade ago. He took a breakout victory at the Silk Way Rally 2015, winning the T3 class alongside Sebastien Delaunay, before triumphing at the Asian Baja 2019 with He Sha. Guoyu and He then made a dream debut at Dakar 2021, finishing 14th overall in the cars and as the best all-rookie crew. However, the world's toughest rally bit back in 2022 as the 38-year-old teamed up with Hongyu Pan. The Chinese pair rolled their car just before the rest day, then lost significant time early in the second week due to a mechanical, eventually dropping to 51st place overall. That clearly wasn't good enough for the ambitious Guoyu, who is back in 2023 with a new car and another new co-driver. His BAIC BJ40 has been upgraded to T1+ specs, with the Changchun native describing it as his ‘new weapon’ to take on the big guns. Another not-so-secret weapon will be his co-driver Jean-Pierre Garcin, who knows the Dakar like the back of his hand. The highly experienced Frenchman first took part in 1997, and has guided four different drivers -Jean-Jacques Ratet, Carlos Sousa, Guerlain Chicherit and Christian Lavieille- to a top-10 finish. As it turns out, that's exactly where Guoyu would like to end up at this Dakar. The pandemic prevented him from racing at home this year for the first time since 2004, but China's rising star is still determined to start 2023 with a bang.
G.Z.: "At Dakar 2021 we not only won the rookie award, we also beat around 90% of our rivals. But at Dakar 2022 a lot of unexpected things happened. Some of our rivals had upgraded their cars and were very fast, which caught us by surprise. We also had some bad luck on the track. On Stage 6, our car rolled when we were trying to overtake another competitor. We lost some time but we were able to keep going. Then on Stage 8, we had a mechanical problem after 100 kilometres. It took us a long time to figure out we had an issue with the differential, then we had to wait for our assistance truck to come and change some parts. So we lost a lot of time and dropped out of the top 50 overall. But overall it was still an unforgettable experience. The Dakar doesn't just let you finish. This year our team has upgraded both cars to T1+, which means bigger 37-inch tyres, greater body width of 2.3m and increased suspension travel of 350mm. The new bodywork has also undergone a series of aerodynamic tests, which means I have a new weapon for the rally. I've closed the technological gap on my rivals. My new co-driver and I are well prepared for this new challenge. Jean-Pierre has been our teammate since 2017. He's very professional, kind and always willing to help others. He seems to know everyone in the bivouac, so we call him our 'social butterfly'. He's a legendary co-driver who's been doing the Dakar since 1997, and his best result is a very impressive sixth place. We're lucky to have him and hopefully we'll have good luck and a solid result this year. As a driver, it's a great honour for me to stand on the Dakar start podium with China's national flag on my shoulders. My goal this year is clear: to improve on my previous best at the Dakar and try to break into the top 10."
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