While Audi makes its final preparations for its electric debut at the Dakar Rally next weekend, another sports car stalwart has declared its intentions of contesting the cross-country desert rally with an alternative powertrain. ORECA announced that it has partnered with the SMG rally-raid team to enter the 2023 Dakar Rally.
ORECA came to prominence during the 1970s and 1980s as a dominant force in the French Formula Three Championship. The team won 11 championships in a span of 13 seasons. In 1991, the French team operated the Mazda 787 program in the FIA World Sportscar Championship, winning that season’s 24 Hours of Le Mans. Eventually, ORECA purchased the prototype manufacturer Courage in 2007 and began producing sports prototype chassis of its own.
Currently, the French manufacturer produces LMP2 prototype chassis that are used extensively in international competition. Every LMP2 team in the most recent season of the FIA World Endurance Championship used an ORECA chassis, and all but two of the LMP2 teams in the 2021 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship used ORECA chassis.
ORECA intends to build a hybrid vehicle for the Dakar that will produce over 300 horsepower. The car will have a 200-hp inline four-cylinder and an 80-kilowatt (107 hp) electric motor. Philippe Gache from SMG said, “The choice we made was to make a hybrid car, it’s the combustion engine that will drive the car, so from that point of view, it’s quite classic.” The idea of using a combustion engine being “classic” just feels weird.
ORECA’s entry is a part of a larger initiative to make the Dakar Rally into a laboratory for sustainably-fueled vehicles by gradually allowing more and more radical alternative powertrains over the coming years. With the 2022 Dakar Rally slated to begin next weekend, ORECA has just over a year to prepare the hybrid rally-raid challenger.