Although many eyes are focused on the upcoming Dakar Rally, which takes place in Saudi Arabia, there is an alternative rally with a destination familiar to Dakar Rally fans—Lac Rose in Senegal. The Africa Eco Race starts in Monaco and ends in Dakar, using many historic routes. Aprilia was the last Italian brand to win the Dakar Rally, and it has entered two Factory Aprilia Tuareg rally bikes in the 2024 Africa Eco Race in preparation for a return to the Dakar Rally.
Piloting the factory Tuaregs are Jacapo Cerutti and Francesco Montanari. Cerutti won the Italian Motorally G-1000 class on the Tuareg. Along the way, Cerruti won the overall at the Rally of Sardinia, beating the single-cylinder enduros at the Rally of Sardinia. Montanari also earned a season podium in the Italian championship.
“For me, it is fantastic to be able to bring a brand like Aprilia back to the desert,” Cerutti says. “The Africa Eco Race will be a great adventure and a huge challenge for everyone. This will be true for me, as a rider, but also for the entire Aprilia Racing department and for the GCorse team. Over the past few months, we have all done an insane amount of work developing the bike, which is already extremely good in its base configuration. We feel like we are ready. We demonstrated a good pace in the tests we did in the desert, so we will certainly be able to hold our own.”
“The first part of the race, in Morocco on harder terrain, could prove to be a bit more complicated,” Cerutti continues, “but I’m optimistic for the second week in the sand. I won’t hide the fact that I’d like to win some legs and stay ahead of some of our more favored rivals. But, beyond that, such a long race is so unpredictable that it’s hard to make any predictions in terms of the general standings. We will certainly be giving it our all.”
Photography by Gigi Soldano
Montanari chimed in, saying, “Even though I am trying to stay calm, I’m sure that once I’m on the starting grid of the first trial, I’ll be overcome by a special emotion. This will be my first experience in such a long and demanding race.”
“These have been extremely intense months, full of testing, races, and training to prepare for this event,” Montanari said. “This is my first time in such a long rally, so my absolute top priority is to finish the race, trying to ride my best but without overdoing it. It won’t be simple because I’ll be trying to give it my all constantly in the race, but it will be important to ration my strength and not make any mistakes. I want to arrive at the finish line in Dakar at all costs, and then, once there, we’ll take stock of how it went.”
The Factory Aprilia Tuareg race bikes include Öhlins suspension by Andreani, SC-Project titanium exhaust, and a custom Sprint Filter air filter. Aprilia Racing added an auxiliary fuel tank due to the long distances between gas stops in Africa, along with the ubiquitous navigation equipment. There are 12 competitive stages in Africa, beginning on January 2 in Morocco and concluding on January 14 on the Atlantic Coast of Africa.