The billionaires of the Dakar
The Dakar caravan brings together the best off-piste rally drivers every year, but also billionaires who, attracted by the mysticism of running the toughest rally in the world, spend part of their fortune in meeting that challenge.
Some do it on a whim, others for their love of motor sports and with the firm intention of carving out a career parallel to the business world.
In any case, registering to run the Dakar requires a high budget, which can reach up to half a million euros if it is done in the truck category, because in addition to the vehicle registration you also have to carry spare parts, mechanics and vehicles of assistance, which makes this race very expensive.
Probably the richest Dakar pilot is Yazeed Al Rajhi, a member of one of the most powerful families in Saudi Arabia, owner of Al Rajhi Bank, one of the largest in the Middle East, among other businesses.
The fortune of the family patriarch, Sulaiman Al Rajhi, is estimated at about 2.1 billion dollars, according to Forbes. Yazeed Al Rajhi himself runs a family-owned investment company in sectors such as real estate and energy, whose capital is about 1,150 million euros.
Despite his family's enormous fortune, Al Rajhi runs the Dakar and the World Rally Championship not on a whim but because he is really fast, as in his 2015 debut at the Dakar, where he almost reached the podium.
It is not far behind Nasser Al Attiyah, double Dakar champion, Olympic shooting medalist and belonging to one of the richest families in Qatar, for being cousin of the current emir of this country, Tamim Al Zani, whose fortune is estimated at about 2.4 billion dollars.
In the same line is Kalid Al Qassimi, a member of the royal family of the United Arab Emirates, with a personal fortune estimated at 82 million dollars.
A similar case is that of the Saudi Yasir Seaidan, son of the owner of an important company with more than 80 years of tradition in real estate, which in his debut at the Dakar was third in the third stage of this edition,
The business world also comes the Argentine Orlando Terranova, the car driver who became the leader of the race after the second stage, something that happened to him for the second time in his career and the first out of Argentina.
His family owns the Terranova Group, a business conglomerate which concentrates the MDZ Online medium and the company Sarmiento Advertising, one of the most important in the country to handle large numbers of advertising posters on public roads.
Unlike other entrepreneurs, Newfoundland is in his car for almost the entire year, at the wheel of the Mini 4x4, with which he usually runs the international circuit of off-piste rallies and the Dakar for eleven years, whose best result is the fifth place of 2014 and 2015.
Another regular of the Dakar is the Dutch Kees Koolen, founder of the Booking travel portal, whose fortune in 2013 was estimated at 115 million euros.
Koolen is in his eleventh Dakar, the first in a UTV (light buggy), after having done it once by motorcycle, another by truck, three by car and five by quad. He claims to have broken 22 bones and momentarily lost his memory in an accident.
Erik Van Loon also participates from Holland on board a Toyota Hilux of the Overdrive structure, whose rental cost is estimated at around $ 800,000. The businessman heads the Van Loon Group, specialized in food, whose turnover in 2017 touched almost 600 million euros.
Also with a rented Toyota Hilux runs his countryman Maik Willems, owner of a hotel chain with 34 establishments and more than 3,000 beds spread between Germany and Holland.
Without being heirs of large fortunes or business emporiums, there are also entrepreneurs who have successful smaller businesses, but with enough revenues to allow themselves to run the Dakar.
This is the case, for example, of the South African Wessel Bosman, who runs the only ski resort with a hotel included in Africa, located in Lesotho. "Yes, the Dakar for me is an expensive vacation," he says.
Other entrepreneurs who are also running the current edition of the rally are Brazilians Lincoln Berrocal and Reinaldo Varela, owners of a jewelry store and a restaurant chain.
Also the Argentine Omar Gandara, who runs a clinic; the Dutchman Peter Van Merksteijn, who runs a company manufacturing steel structures for construction; or the Frenchman Philippe Boutron, businessman and president of the Orleans football club.