Schlesser: the buggy master

in 2018, the Dakar Rally is being organised for the 40th time. To celebrate the occasion, BFGoodrich® looks back at the first four decades of this unique competition in the form of a collection of anecdotes and souvenirs, plus a presentation of the characters who have marked the history of the world’s number one cross-country rally . We begin by reviewing the careers of four drivers who have left an indelible mark on the event over the years.

The 1990s…

Jean-Louis Schlesser: the buggy master

After a brief career in Formula 1 and a spell in world-class sports-prototype racing with teams like Sauber-Mercedes, Jean-Louis Schlesser made his Dakar debut in 1990 with Mitsubishi.

He immediately fell in love with the desert of North Africa and returned the following year in a self-designed two-wheel drive buggy equipped with BFGoodrich® Baja T/A tyres. the move kicked off a decade of adventure for the Frenchman as he took on the might of the factory Citroën and Mitsubishi operations with his own team.

In 1993, the allrounder earned BFGoodrich®’s first major success on the Dakar by winning the two-wheel drive class and securing 14th place overall, a result that preceded a sequence of wins in rounds of the FIA Cross-Country Rally World Cup.

After 1996, the discipline’s technical regulations banned the awesome T3 prototypes and Jean-Louis Schlesser, who remained loyal to his self-designed buggies, claimed his first Dakar stage victory in 1997 (between Tambacounda and Kayes) to pile the pressure on the factory Mitsubishi Pajeros which he would end up defeating two years later.

The 1999 Dakar effectively saw the Frenchman produce a veritable exploit by winning the famous marathon outright in a two-wheel drive buggy. It was BFGoodrich®’s first major off-road competition success outside of America and Schlesser finished at the top of the order a second time in 2000, the year he also claimed the FIA Cross-Country Rally World Cup title with the US tyre brand after winning five rounds.

Jean-Louis Schlesser emerged as BFGoodrich®’s first ambassador in Europe thanks to a successful spell in cross-country rallying.

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