Discover the stories of the Dakar's heroes Inside the Bivouac
N°500 Truck PROJECT 2030

KEES KOOLEN

(nld) 1.79m / 85kg

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2022 13th (truck)
2021: 6th (SSV)
2020: 17th (SSV)
2018: 8th (Quad)
2017: 17th, 1 stage win (Quad)
2016: Ab. Stage 10 (Quad)
2015: Ab. Stage 6 (Quad)
2014: 37th (Truck)
2013: 17th (quad)
2012: 59th (car)
2011: Ab. Stage 6 (car)
2010: Ab. Stage 3 (car)
2009: 69th (Bike)

2022: winner world cup cross country T5
2022: 3rd world cup cross country bajas T4
2021: FIA World Cup Rally
2020: Qatar Cross Country Rally, Baja 500 Portalegre
2019: Rallye du Maroc (29th FIA overall)
2017: full World Championship Cross Country (world champion)
2016: Silk Way Rally (car)
Finished the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge in all 5 categories.
Winner quad Rally du Maroc 2017
Winner quad ADDC in 2018

Interview

“Our next Dakar should be electric”

After 13 Dakars in bikes, cars, quads and trucks, Kees Koolen expects 2023 to be his final event in a fossil fuel vehicle. ‘Project 2030’ brings together 25 clean energy companies, academic R&D by the Green Box clean energy campus in Hengelo and a futuristic racing truck named ‘Nicias’. Its goal is to replace the fossil fuel and hybrid powerplants currently used by heavy vehicles with a fully electric system. The cherry on the cake is an all-electric Dakar truck, with batteries charged during and after the race using 100% clean energy, which Koolen expects to have ready to race in 2024. This year’s Dakar should thus be their last with the Iveco Powerstar, with testing of the new electric vehicle due to commence in May. Koolen finished 13th at the Dakar last season with Wouter de Graaff as his co-driver, and then finished the year as the leader of the W2RC. De Graaff switches to mechanic this year, with Wouter Rosegaar drafted in at short notice. Second in last year’s T3 class as co-driver for Sebastian Eriksson, Rosegaar was again expecting to navigate for the Swedish Rallycross star. But late budget issues forced Eriksson to withdraw and, after sealing a deal with Koolen, Rosegaar returns to the truck category for what will be his 16th Dakar. Prior to joining forces with Eriksson, Rosegaar partnered WRC star Kris Meeke in the 2021 prototype class, winning the prologue plus three stages.


K.K.: “The plan was to go electric for this year but we had a lot of delays with the delivery of parts and certification of our battery set-up. Now we have everything we need, the chassis is ready, the mounting of the batteries is ready, the next task is to install the engines to the axle and then start on the wiring. The truck should be ready by March-April, so we can start testing in May and then our next Dakar should be electric.
“The first time I did the Dakar was really a coincidence, it was just after the financial crisis in 2009 when a friend told me, ‘if you want to do it, now is a good time because there are places available’. My first Dakar was on a motorbike, but I found it too dangerous. The big difference between a bike and a quad, for example, is the speed. Trucks require a special driving style to go fast, which I was working on in Morocco. It’s also important to avoid problems along the way - don't get lost, don’t have mechanicals, don't get stuck. The top guys have ten years more experience in a truck than me so my only chance is to make sure I avoid any problems. If I can have a clean Dakar, I should get my best result yet.”


W.R.: “There was a last minute change of plan after Sebastian Eriksson’s team didn't have the budget to go, so I spoke to Kees Koolen and he asked me to join him. My last time in the truck was in 2019 with Martin Van Den Brink, but now is a good time to return because without Kamaz there’s more space on the podium!
“Kees and I have done one race together to prepare, in Dubai. We both have a lot of experience but must learn how to get the best from each other, which includes finding out exactly how Kees wants the notes. He’s done the Dakar on many different types of machine so he really understands the navigation side. The feeling was good in Dubai and we are excited to start the race. Looking at the route, there are long stages from the start until the rest day. Then after it looks like small stages, but I think they will be heavy going! So some people think the hard part will be the first days and others that it’ll be near the end.
“Either way, we will try to finish each day between 5th and 10th, then hope to be around the top five at the finish. Kees is also really good in the dunes, so we should be able to set a good pace there.
“This is my 16th Dakar. I first got started when Dutch driver Tonnie van Deijne, who lived near my home, entered the race. I went to see him, we stayed in touch and the next year he offered me the chance to be his co-driver. I said, ‘but I'm a student and don't have the budget’. He said he could help and that was the start of my Dakar career. So I began just as an amateur, then in recent years I’ve been driving with people like Kris Meeke. It's crazy!”

Vehicle

PROJECT 2030

IVECO POWERSTAR
PROJECT 2030

  • IVECO
  • POWERSTAR
  • -
  • -
  • T5.1: Prototype Cross-Country Trucks

Ranking 2023

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