The Dakar Rally legend recounted at Rétromobile 2024

Rétromobile 2024, the international exhibition dedicated to vintage car enthusiasts, has a big new surprise in store for visitors to its 48th edition, in partnership with the Dakar Rally. After announcing exhibits dedicated to the centenaries of the MG brand and the UTAC Linas-Montlhéry autodrome, a new ode to passion for motor sport will be in the spotlight this year, with the Dakar Rally.

The Dakar Rally is still a benchmark sporting and human event, a true epic covering 9,000 kilometres, launched for the first time in December 1978 by the visionary Thierry Sabine. Over the years, the man who more than anyone else epitomised the modern-day adventurer brought together drivers and co-drivers from all over the world to test their own limits and those of their two- or four-wheeled machines.

Tributes to the pioneers

As part of the 2024 edition of Rétromobile, a unique display will showcase some of the iconic vehicles that have left their mark on the history of the race. Not only that, but some of the biggest names in Rally-Raid racing, including Cyril Neveu, Claude Marreau and André Dessoude, to name but a few, will be on hand to share their experiences and answer questions from the public.

Among the highlights of the exhibition is Thierry Sabine's XT 500, on which he was reported missing for 3 days and 4 nights during the 1977 Abidjan-Nice Rally. Rescued at the last minute, he was deeply affected by the ordeal, and a few months later decided to launch a new adventure: the Paris-Dakar Rally. The 4L used by the Marreau brothers in the first edition of the rally and Daniel Nollan's Renault KZ "La Gazelle" will also be on show, recalling the beginnings of a competition designed primarily for amateur drivers. Manufacturers such as Peugeot and Porsche, who left their mark on the 1980s and 1990s, will also be in the spotlight, with iconic models such as the Peugeot 405 Grand Raid and the Porsche 959 symbolising their dominance at the time.

Within the competition, a category open to vintage vehicles has also been created, bringing together 174 amateur drivers and co-drivers in a regularity race, the Dakar Classic.

In keeping with its motto "the past always has a future", Rétromobile will also be exploring the latest technological developments by displaying the Audi RS Q e-Tron, itself symbolising the third chapter of the Dakar Rally which, after Africa and South America, has since 2020 been the guest of the largest country on the Arabian Peninsula: Saudi Arabia. The next Rally will set off on 5 January in AlUla, Saudi Arabia, and will finish one prologue and 12 stages later on 19 January in Yanbu.

“By revisiting more than forty years of history through this exhibit, we want to pay tribute to all those involved - drivers, co-drivers, organisers, manufacturers, celebrities, amateurs, spectators, mechanics... - who have contributed to making this event the greatest Rally in the world. Having myself had the chance to take part in the 2022 edition of the Dakar Classic, I think I can say that the Dakar Rally is as much a mechanical challenge as it is a human one, one of those rare experiences that mark a person's life forever. As Thierry Sabine used to say: "A challenge for those who go, a dream for those who stay behind". It is precisely this part of the dream that we aim to share with the exhibition's visitors,” says Romain Grabowski, Director of Rétromobile.

"In the world and history of motor sports, the Dakar occupies a place of its own. The era of the pioneers was also one in which adventure was made accessible to amateur sportspeople, driven by the call of the desert and hitherto virtually inaccessible territories. The vehicles as well as the men who testify to this period at Rétromobile reflect this particularity: the Marreau brothers' Renault 4L rubs shoulders with Ari Vatanen's Peugeot 405, because then just as now, the challenge of the Dakar was aimed at immense champions as well as those affectionately known as ‘leeks’. United by the same passion,” adds David Castera, director of the Dakar Rally.