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Tiphanie Isnard Team Principal The Dacia Sandriders interview

On 30 January, Dacia unveiled its Sandrider, the Ultimate T1+ prototype with which it plans to tackle the entire 2025 and 2026 W2RC seasons. The Dacia Sandriders, as the Dacia works team is known, will burst onto the scene in the 2024 Rallye du Maroc —the finale of the current season— and take their final bow in the 2027 Dakar.   The W2RC sat down with the team principal of the French outfit, Tiphanie Isnard, who rubbed shoulders with Bruno Famin back when Peugeot embarked on its own Dakar adventure (2016-17-18), to talk sport, tech and ambition.

© DPPI/Julien Delfosse
© DPPI/Julien Delfosse
© DPPI/Julien Delfosse

What made Dacia want to take up the W2RC challenge?
"When it comes to marketing and communications, winning the Dakar leaves a striking impression on the general public because it is the best-known rally. However, we are a team dedicated to the sport, so claiming the manufacturers' or drivers' world championship titles is every bit as important. Preparation is key because our goal is crystal clear: to triumph as soon as the 2025 Dakar and take the world championship title. Extensive testing and race experience are key to maximising our chances of achieving these goals. The championship is a dual exercise in training and performance, which is essential. Signing up for the world championship is also a token of Dacia's commitment: we come, we get it right and we keep going until the end. The W2RC is definitely a must."

Where and when will The Dacia Sandriders spring into action with Sébastien Loeb, Nasser Al Attiyah and Cristina Gutiérrez?
"We'll be fielding these three drivers in the 2024 Rallye du Maroc and 2025 Dakar. Sébastien and Nasser will take part in the 2025 and 2026 world championships. We're keeping our options open for Cristina because we want to support her as she tackles increasingly tougher challenges. She'll be developing a lot, so we'll take it step by step and expand her calendar when the right time comes. They're all free to race for any constructor in the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, but in early March we'll start our development and intensive testing schedule. They'll have access to all the engineering data for the Sandrider and, from that moment on, they'll be Dacia factory drivers. We won't bar them from taking a Hunter or even a T3 out for a spin so they can stay sharp, but the Dacia testing programme will be the top priority."

   "We come, we get it right and we keep going until the end"

What are the links between Dacia and Prodrive? Is there a bit of the Hunter in the Sandrider?
"Prodrive will be our technical tuner. We've worked with their design office, but the Sandrider is in no way a revamped Hunter. It was more about picking certain reliable and high-performance pieces from the Hunter. The Dacia design department was responsible for designing our prototype from the ground up. We also marshalled the engineering resources of the group with Alpine and chose a Nissan engine. It's a whole new chassis, a whole new engine and an overhauled cockpit."

© DPPI/Julien Delfosse