After making her name in side-by-side vehicles, Dania Akeel will move up to the top class of rally raid when she starts competing in a Toyota Hilux Overdrive in the Ultimate (T1) category in 2025, competing in both the Saudi Toyota Championship and World Rally-Raid Championship. Her entry will be prepared by Overdrive Racing.
Akeel got to drive an Hilux Overdrive in October at the W2RC Next Gen Tryouts, which allowed racers from other categories to pilot T1 cars on a test course following the W2RC season-ending Rallye du Maroc. Said Hilux is normally driven by Yazeed Al-Rajhi, a fellow Saudi competitor.
“We decided with the support of Abdul Latif Jameel Toyota, and with the support of all the sponsors, their support and encouragement, that I will participate in the T1+ category with the Overdrive team,” Akeel told SSC Saudi Sports Company at the Dakar Rally. “Our champion Yazeed Al-Rajhi is racing with them, and they assured me that they have a place and a car, and the sponsor supports this decision.”
She normally races in the Challenger (formerly T3) class, finishing eighth in class in her Dakar début in 2022; she was one of the first Saudi women to enter the race, which moved to her home country in 2020. Akeel signed with Wevers Sport to race a Taurus T3 Max starting with the 2023 Rallye du Maroc, where she finished sixth among T3 entrants.
Her 2024 Dakar Rally was upended by a clutch failure ninety-one kilometres before the end of the Chrono Stage on Friday. She had been twelfth overall among Challenger entrants with a best finish of seventh in Stage #3.
“The Dakar Rally is the first round of this championship, and I will benefit greatly by continuing in the same category as we can earn points in the same category at the same time,” she explained. “I can also see how I will adapt to the larger car, the T1+ with Overdrive, which naturally requires higher and stronger skills. There are many aspects in which it will be more powerful and many things will be at a higher level than the car I have now.”
She also described the move to the top class as a “long-term strategy.” Many in her current category have also made the jump including reigning W2RC T3 champion Seth Quintero, who also races a Hilux.
The Toyota Hilux is one of the top rally raid vehicles today, having won the last two Dakar Rallies as well as both editions of the W2RC to date courtesy of Toyota Gazoo Racing. TGR and Overdrive helped the Hilux win all five W2RC rounds in 2023, with Al-Rajhi claiming two rounds at the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge and Morocco; Al-Rajhi and Juan Cruz Yacopini also represented Overdrive as the second- and third-place drivers in the championship.