Twin brothers Tim and Tom Coronel took on the Dakar Rally together last year, and are now ready to give the legendary South American-based event another go. Caspar Bekking caught up with the duo.
Things didn’t exactly go smoothly for the Dutch twins last year, with Tim – a veteran of eight Dakar rallies – retiring at the end of the second day with mechanical issues in his one-man dune buggy.
Meanwhile, Tom suffered the rally from hell. Originally planning to film a documentary about his fellow Dutch competitors, the WTCC regular had to spend four nights in the desert amid repeated problems with his own car, ultimately being disqualified.
Both are back for another crack of the whip in 2016, once more tackling the rally in one-man buggies, and Tim says it’s surmounting the kinds of problems they suffered last year that make competing in the Dakar such a joy.
“To overcome all those setbacks, that’s the most exciting part,” he told Motorsport.com. “The moments that we have overcome are moments we will never forget. It’s an adventure, and that part is so much fun!”
Not the easy road
Tom could take the straightforward option of just racing on permanent circuits, completing the WTCC season and relaxing during the off-season. But that’s not the Coronel way.
“The only reason not to do Dakar is to prepare well for the WTCC," said the 43-year-old. "In terms of racing, there is no clash.
“But on the other hand, during the Dakar I get a lot of attention, so after the event it’s the perfect moment to sit down with my sponsors and talk about the WTCC season.”
Tim added: “That’s what I like about it. Last year, Tom said he would never go back, and now he’s ready to go. So something must have triggered him!”
Tom explains: “It’s the craziness you are constantly experiencing. To be honest, it makes me scared – ‘f*ck, I’m going again…”
Finishing the target
Their goal for this year’s rally is clear, as Tim explains: “To finish with both cars. We might win our class because we are the only two solo drivers so far!”
The adventure seems crazy, given the budget and manpower of the major manufacturers, but Tom is just looking at the challenge: “We do everything by ourselves. We’re not Mini or Toyota or Nissan.
“We’re not trying to beat the big boys because that makes no sense. We do this in our own way. Driving for a factory team would be very nice, but we are realistic, not dreamers.
Why drive solo as opposed to a conventional two-seater car or three-man truck? “Solo driving is just really cool,” Tim said. “I don’t need anyone next to me in the car. This chapter isn’t finished yet.”
The big question is of course when this chapter will be finished. Tim had a definite answer: “Maybe when I’m six feet under… This is a way of life, I can’t imagine a life without Dakar.”
Tom agrees: “Give us four wheels and a steering wheel and we’ll be there. And the Dakar is the biggest challenge in this category. The organisers want you fail to make it to the finish.”
That opinion is shared by his more experienced brother: "Their goal is that only 50 percent of participants make it to the finish. Otherwise it is not the world's toughest rally.”
A unique bond
The extraordinary relationship between the brothers became very clear in 2015, when Tim went looking for his brother in the desert in the middle of the night.
“When Tim was in trouble on the second day, I gave him all my spare parts,” recalled Tom. “20 kilometres further down the road, his rally was definitely over. We said to each other: ‘No way both Coronels won’t make it to the finish on the second day!’
“From that moment I tried everything to finish, maybe his DNF was my motivation.”
Tom is still a bit scared about the Dakar 2016. Asked to name his biggest fear, he said: “Our buggy is two-wheel drive, so we sink in it.
"And all that dust obstructs your view. It’s really unhealthy for your lungs; when you’re home, you’re coughing for months to get it out of your body."