An exclusive Interview with Karel Loprais
Karel loprais is the six-time winner of the Rally Paris-Dakar. Since winning his
last medal in trucks, he has been called Monsieur Dakar. He drove his first Dakar
in 1986, eventually taking part in nineteen Dakar races.
Mr Loprais, how did you, as a factory driving mechanic
and test driver, become the racing driver for Tatra at
the Dakar Rally?
When Tatra decided to participate at the Dakar Rally,
they invited the drivers who had had the greatest
experience and skill in driving these trucks. As test
drivers, we had enough experience so we won the
Did something in the first rally surprise you? No
matter how experienced, you had not had the
opportunity to drive the trucks in an environment as
challenging as that before.
We all had various opportunities to test the trucks in
various locations worldwide, yet we had never before
experienced what we faced during the first race. You
cannot really get prepared for a rally like that in our
How did you feel during the first race?
My feelings were very, very ambivalent at the beginning
of the rally in Paris. There were many people who came
to see the start of the Dakar, not to cheer on the Dakar
drivers but to see the Formula 1 racers who took part
in the rally, too. The large audience was a great surprise
too; we would have never imagined such a great
number of people coming.
Can you see a strong connection of the name Loprais
with the brand Tatra and the city of Kopřivnice?
I have worked at Tatra for all my life. My wife comes
from Kopřivnice; we both have strong bonds to the city.
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As for the connection of Loprais family and Tatra trucks,
it makes me really happy. I have dedicated nearly all my
life to the company, so it does feel very nice.
You have travelled most of the world. Which place
do you like remembering the most?
Most of all I have enjoyed South America where I went
as a member of the support crew. I will also never
forget Africa: driving in the Sahara is a very unique
Your nephew, Aleš, now walks in your shoes. Did you
advise and instruct him when he was a beginner at
the Dakar Rally?
We went to my last rally together: Aleš was my codriver and navigator. I injured my spine, so we did not
finish the race. Aleš has been racing ever since. He
knew what he was getting into. He learnt a lot when
racing with me. In his first race, he came third in trucks,
and they were a minimal crew of two.
Do you still participate in events related to the Dakar
Rally. Do you give training sessions?
No, not any more; the guys work on their own. Aleš is
very skillful; he does not need my instruction. I mostly
attend promo events.
Do you follow Dakar?
I sure do. I spent a large part of my life there. I cannot
just put it aside. It is a serious affair of my heart.
Thank you for the interview.