- The Madrid-born driver, excited by the Dakar 2019 departure ceremony, admits feeling he is “privileged”.
- At the age of 44, he is living a second youth in motor sport along with Galician co-driver Diego Vallejo.
- “After winning my second Spanish Rally Championship, I thought I would never come back to elite sport but the SsangYong project has fuelled my hopes.”
Dakar makes Oscar Fuertes feel past sensations all over again. After winning the Spanish Gravel Rally Championship in 2011, Carlos Sainz’s disciple felt excited again when, a year ago, he stumbled upon the toughest race in the world thanks to SsangYong Motorsport project. Yesterday, on the podium during the departure ceremony in Lima, he tried to control his emotions, being aware he’s living a second youth in motor racing at the age of 44.
“After winning several titles in Spain and at a point when I thought it was impossible for me to get to the Champions League –which for me are Formula 1, the World Rally Championship and the Dakar– this project gave me back hope. My childhood dream is coming true”, admits Oscar Fuertes, who competes in the toughest race in the world for a second year in a row with Galician expert co-driver Diego Vallejo.
Before starting the event, Fuertes is certain his team comes to the race in very good conditions: “I’ve given 110% to this project and I am excited to be in the 2019 Dakar start line with the new Rexton DKR. We’re very satisfied with the new car, which is awesome. We’ve worked a lot on the buggy and on the preparation of the team, and we come with higher hopes than last year, when finishing the race was really a success.”
In his debut, he finished 32nd in the classification and was the second best rookie. The touching images of his celebration at the finish line were seen around the world. “Finishing a Dakar race is very special because this test combines racing and adventure. If you can finish the race it means you did things right and you must be proud of yourself. Honestly, last year’s experience was very touching and we hope to feel that again.”
The truth is Oscar Fuertes is really passionate about this sport. “Since I was a little kid I dreamed about being a driver and motor sport was what I was really passionate about; I wanted to ride anything that made noise and ran”, he remembers. His greatest shot came in 1998 when he went to the recruitment test for the Carlos Sainz Junior Team, along with other 3,000 candidates. In the end, only four drivers were chosen and he was selected to be part of the talented dream-team.
By the hand of Sainz, Fuertes grew and developed not only as a driver but also as a person. “The academy taught me to be discerning, professional and strict”, he recalls. In terms of sports, he started a great career, which undoubtedly made him one of the biggest promising drivers of the Spanish motor sport. One success after another, he conquered the Spanish Gravel Rally Championship in 2011.
“I was very close to the world rally elite, it was at the tip of my fingers but it vanished. However, I never quit on my dream and here we are, in the Dakar”, he states full of hope. Thanks to SsangYong Motorsport and in his 40s, he is back to compete at the highest level and approaches his second Dakar in a row as excited as a rookie. “I’m privileged to be able to get into a racing car and there’s no better place than the toughest race in the world to do that”, he states.
The SsangYong Rexton DKR Fuertes will drive starting today in the first stage, has a 6.2-litre 450HP V8 engine that allows for speeding from 0 to 100 km/h in 4.4 seconds and reaching 195 km/h. It falls into the T1.3 class, for rear-wheel-drive petrol-powered cars, where he hopes to obtain a good final result.
“Our main goal is to get to the finish line although we’ll fight to get a good final result. The experience and the potential of the new Rexton DKR should contribute to a good performance. Nevertheless, this is a very tough race and we will need to be careful with the Peruvian dunes, which though beautiful, already proved to be an authentic hell last year”, warns the Madrid-born driver who is “anxious to compete” and admits that “the waiting is killing me”.
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