All change in T1+ class
This year, 4-wheel drive cars are allowed to upgrade to wider tyres, a wider chassis and more suspension travel with 2-wheel drive cars (buggies) retaining the ability to deflate/inflate their tyres from the cockpit to maximise efficiency and fuel consumption.
Both of the top teams are racing on new cars - leaving the potential for big shakeups in the leaderboard. Mini has won the last two Dakars, but Toyota's Al Attiyah suffered more than 80 punctures in those two races. Could it make the difference and help him claim his fourth Dakar victory?
New Audi RS Q e-tron
The not-quite-electric, not-quite-combustion hybrid 671-HP Audi RS Q e-tron is a huge step in the research and development to bringing fully electric cars to the highest level of cross-country rallying with big buzz growing about its performance capability.
No matter what happens on the sand, it is sure to electrify Dakar fans worldwide - especially with two top-class drivers like Peterhansel and Sainz, backed up by multi-class talent Mattias Ekstrom in his second Dakar.
Young talent shines
The Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team has come on leaps and bounds with young duo Seth Quintero and Mitch Guthrie Jr both excelling over the Dakar dunes. Californian Quintero became the youngest ever Dakar stage winner on the back of his six 2021 stage victories, while Guthrie Jr picked up UTV stage wins in 2020 so watch out for them to excel again.
On the bikes, keep an eye out for young American Mason Klein who has proven to be a good navigator and consistently fast finisher as well as his teammate Bradley Cox, whose father is Dakar legend Alfie Cox.
Navigation still key
The risks get bigger every year as the talent pool gets deeper with organisers out to contain top speeds by keeping the roadbooks tight and tough, meaning navigation is crucial.
With these being delivered digitally, there is no chance to study and prep - it's quick reflex real-time racing.