The truck category of the Dakar Rally looks to be set for even more excitement than usual in the 2005 edition of the famed cross-country event.
Kamaz is back with the top team of Vladimir Tchaguine, Semion Yakoubov and Serguei Savostine, and they also have a new, stronger engine for the 2004 Dakar-winning Kamaz 4911.
The Kamaz-Master team has been dominant in cross-country raids for the past few years, and has claimed an impressive five Dakar titles in the truck category to date. The factory-backed team will again have three entries at the 2005 Dakar.
Tchaguine, personally, will be gunning for a fifth straight Dakar victory in the #515 Kamaz with his experienced crew, but it will be nothing if not a hard fight for them.
Not only will the grueling 9,000 kilometer cross-country rally test the endurance of the drivers and co-drivers to the extremes; but this year the truck category promises to be particularly hard-fought, with 69 total entries.
Iveco, which has had a rather low profile in Dakar in recent years, is back with a vengeance this year. The Italian manufacturer, with the Motorsport Italia team, has entered a pair of Iveco Eurocargo 140E24 WS trucks in the Dakar.
That is made all the more impressive by the team lead drivers, both possessing some rather impressive CVs: Miki Biasion (#517) and Markku Alen (#522), with 36 World Rally Championship wins between them, both longtime Lancia pilots. Biasion is a two-time World Rally Champion, while Alen is one of the highest-regarded rally drivers ever to finish a career without a championship.
The father-and-son team of Jan and Gerard de Rooy is back once again in a pair of Gauloises-sponsored DAF FAV CF75.530 trucks, #521 and #516 respectively.
Often a bridesmaid, but never yet the bride, the de Rooys have been competing in the Dakar since 1981, and have come tantalizingly close to overall truck division victory a number of times, but with only a 1987 win to show for their efforts. Could this be the year for a second overall win?
Plus, the six-time winning Tatra team again has a strong three-truck entry, led by six-time Dakar winner Karel Loprais (#519), and there is a plethora of Mercedes Unimog and MAN entries ready to pounce should the front-runners falter in the thousands of kilometres of North African wilderness they need to cross before reaching Dakar.