Isidre Esteve: “The decision to run the Dakar marked and continues to mark my life”


Driver Isidre Esteve (Repsol Toyota Rally Team) confesses that the decision to run his first Dakar “marked and continues to mark” his life because competing in races “helps normalize” his daily life, at the same time that he is clear that He continues running because motorsports is “an example” in inclusion and predicts a generational change in the favorites for the demanding race now based in Saudi Arabia.

“The Dakar was a decision that has marked my life, that continues to mark it and that, above all, on a sporting level, as a result of my accident, has helped me a lot to be able to continue competing. Continuing in races helps normality my daily life,” said Esteve, 51, in an interview with Europa Press.

The driver from Lérida has competed in 19 editions of the Dakar, 10 on a motorcycle and, following the spinal injury he suffered in a race in 2007 in a Spanish Championship event, another 9 by car. On two wheels, the one from Oliana added two fourth positions as his best results; by car, he finished 21st in 2018 and 2019, always very close to the ‘Top 20’.

And with almost twenty participations in the most demanding raid in the world, Esteve insisted that choosing to run the first in 1998 “was an opportunity and a very right decision.” “The Dakar has contributed a lot to my life and continues to contribute. For me, it is like in life, there are moments when you make decisions that mark your career, both on a sporting level and on a personal level,” he explained.

It is also important for the Catalan to continue in the race how it focuses on inclusion, after his serious accident on March 24, 2007. Then, during the Almería Rally, he fractured the T7 and T8 vertebrae, leaving him paraplegic and wheelchair bound. Although this did not affect his motivation and passion for motorsports and competition. It didn’t take him two years to return to the Dakar, in the 2009 edition, taming a Sangyong Kyron.

“The world of motorsport is an example. In the Dakar, people with and without disabilities face the same challenges every day, with the same difficulties, without any type of bonus due to my disability. And this is great. This is also why that I continue running. With all due respect to other sports that cannot be inclusive, because at the regulation level it is very difficult to be in a sport with such clear inclusion,” he said.


Esteve began the preparation for the 2025 Dakar Rally at the Rally Raid de Portugal, and completed the demanding test in Grândola with a creditable ninth place. “We knew that for my condition it was very difficult, because it is a 100% driving rally, with very narrow tracks, a lot of mud, water. So, it is more difficult for me to control everything, although I don’t want it to be an excuse. But it is the In reality, the more the car moves, the more work I have,” he analyzed.

“It was quite difficult for me to get into the race. When I did the first stage, I saw that to go fast you had to take a lot of risks, the trees were very close, the track was very slippery. When this is in the open desert, we are more accustomed to seeing that we are going to find, but when it is Portugal-type tracks there are many surprises. At first I was very cautious, and it was not until the third day when I drove as I wanted, from then on the race was more relaxed, without so much tension,” he added. .

Furthermore, the Rally of Portugal is “important” because “it is a different race.” “There is no such driving in Morocco. The issue of having to drive fine in the mud, aggressive in certain points. Technically, it is more complicated. One day in Arabia, a mud track will surely fall and it will rain, so, everything we have practiced in Portugal is good,” said Esteve, who thanked the fans present at the race for their support.

“In Portugal there have always been a lot of people, but I was surprised, very positively, to see so many fans in Spain. It was flooded with people, the tracks were flooded with people. And for us, when there are so many people on the track, it is more motivating to run. , because you feel that you are not alone, you feel the screams of people at every turn. They know your name, and it even seems like you hear your name there and you say ‘all these people are here to follow us’, it is something enriching and. motivating,” he said.

Although, with fans or not, he continues to feel tension, which “does not subside until the end of the rally.” “Once I’m in the race I can spend 7-8 hours in the race, sleep little and I’m always fine. The depression comes when I finish the rally, I have 10 days to recover, it’s the tension of the race itself that makes us always feel very attentive,” he said about how he faces personal recovery after the competition.


The one in Grândola, just over an hour from Lisbon, was the first race in preparation for the Dakar 2025, and will be the last with the car with the V8 engine. “At the end of May, we are going to have the new Toyota Hilux unit with the V6 T1+,” revealed the Catalan driver, who will carry out a test in France “on a hard track with stones, very similar to Morocco” and others in July and September “to fine-tune control issues.”

And perhaps starting in 2025, a generational change of winners will begin, which Esteve already predicts. “This is going to change, there are three or four now –Sainz, Loeb and Al Attiyah–, but now a generation of young people is rising who, if they have a sports program, are going to arrive. There are Lucas Moraes or Seth Quintero, the bet that Toyota has made. They are going to arrive, let us not have any doubt, because generational changes are coming,” he warned.

Finally, Esteve highlighted Repsol’s commitment to renewable fuels, which he himself uses in his Toyota Hilux. “The energy change in mobility is a reality. That a Spanish company like Repsol believes that competition is the best test bed for the development of these new energies is impressive. Repsol is betting and betting heavily, with Toyota, on rallies. It is It is a great pride to be part of the development of this new renewable fuel,” he concluded.