After a two-year absence, Albert Llovera returns to the Dakar Rally, which is taking place in Saudi Arabia for the first time from the 5th to the 17th of January. The driver from Andorra will be driving one of the four IVECO Powerstar Evo3 trucks belonging to the PETRONAS DE ROOY team. As most people know, they are one of the favourites for the win and a classic at the legendary race after having taken part for nine years consecutively.
Team owner, Dutchman Gerard de Rooy, (2012 and 2016 champion and third in 2019), has placed his trust in Llovera to be the quick response vehicle for team leaders Janus van Kasteren and Vick Versteijnen. After a short three-day training programme in Morocco, Albert dazzled his team and managed to go up from fourth to third place in their inside ranking.
After Albert Llovera debut in 2007 (cars) and his performances in 2014, 2015 (buggies) and 2017 (trucks, 24th his best result), this will be his fifth participation at the desert race. By his side will be Ferrán Marco (co-pilot) and Marc Torres (mechanic).
With his trademark, unshakable spirit, this young 52-year-old will face the race with the excitement of a child. Despite having been competing for three years, Llovera’s eyes shine every time he speaks about his new project.
As Albert Llovera himself has explained, he is a multifaceted racer who has competed in both the Spanish and World Rally Championships, World RallyCross Championship, Dakar, etc., as well as on all surfaces (snow, ice, tarmac, sand) and onboard all types of vehicles.
This is the story of a hero that speeds up towards happiness in the face of any challenge. In less than 72 hours he will be taking on the toughest race in the world once again. Good luck to him!
Which have been your first sensations with the IVECO?
“The sensations have been very good. The IVECO’s chassis and suspensions are very comfortable. It is a very well built and designed truck. As soon as you seat down you feel it is a real racing truck. The Tatra was also but the IVECO has been more developed”.
Which is easier to drive, the IVECO or the Tatra?
“Well, firstly the Tatra’s transmission is manual whereas the IVECO’s is automatic and that makes a big difference, at least for me. One of the things I knew for certain is that I wanted the truck to have an automatic transmission. The injury I suffered in my hands during the 2017 Dakar was due to having to change gears from 3.000 to 4.000 times per stage! It is very hard. At the end of each stage, I couldn’t even take my gloves off”.
It must be hard at the end of each stage…
“For me, the end of each stage marks the start of another Dakar (Referring to the difficulties of moving around on the sand and around the campsite on his wheelchair). I have a tent and I have bought myself a bed to be able to have some sleep. They were asking me for 37.000 euros for a motorhome but I couldn’t afford it”.
What is going to be your role at the Dakar?
“For the time being my role will be that of an assistant. I started as fourth driver for the team but after the training sessions, I am now third…I have a bit of freedom but not a lot. Initially, my role will involve helping my two teammates. I will be carrying 300-400 kg of material in my truck as fast as possible”.
And what about a specific objective? Improving on your 2017’s 24th place perhaps?
“To cover my teammates’ backs, to be able to arrive as soon as possible if they need help and to be able to make all of the necessary repairs. If that is not possible, I would have to start racing ahead of them so that the team changes my role. But my main objective is doing as best as I can. Slowly I will try and climb up positions as the race progresses, at least that is what I think”.
How do you think Alonso is going to get on at the Dakar?
“Fernando is not a Dakar specialist but he is a great driver and he is very adaptable. His kind of training means he goes right into the deep end at any speciality. I think he is doing very well and he will do very well. He could surprise at some of the stages. I think so”.
You usually wear a Kimoa (Alonso’s company) cup. Are you in any partnership together?
“Yes. Fernando has been supporting me for almost two years. I am very grateful because he is a very good person and a very important figure in the sport. I have always followed him and he also likes what I do. We are friends so I asked him to give me a hand (laughs). And that is how it all started”.
You are an ambassador for Fiat’s ‘Autonomy Programme’, What is it about?
“It is a programme that supports people with a disability so that they can benefit from a special price when buying a car as well as from a discount on the cost of adapting it. The later can be done by Guidosimplex and other similar companies with a massive range of products”.
How would you define yourself as a racer?
“I am a hard worker and I am consistent but above all multifaceted. I don’t have a preferred car, speciality or surface”.
Images of Albert Llovera: Albert Llovera Twitter