Interview with 2024 Dakar Rally SSV Champion: Xavier de Soultrait
Entretien avec le champion SSV du Dakar 2024 : Xavier de Soultrait

French SSV pilot Xavier de Soultrait and co-pilot Martin Bonnet became this year’s Dakar Rally SSV Champions; their second-ever race in the SSV category, this time at the helm of Polaris RZR Pro R Factory.

In the second year of a five-year partnership between Polaris Off Road Vehicles and the Sébastien Loeb Racing team, the vehicle, team and crew have proven to be a winning formula by claiming the top spot in arguably the world’s toughest race. Fresh after his incredible victory, Xavier de Soultrait answers the burning questions on what winning the Dakar Rally for the first time feels like, and how he overcame the various challenges of Dakar to reach this monumental milestone.

This is your second participation in the Dakar Rally in the SSV category with the Polaris RZR. How does it feel to come out on top?

“Winning the second SSV race of our lives, and the first race with Polaris’ new RZR Pro R Factory, is indescribable! We fought to be at the start and we all tried very hard. Winning the hardest race in the world so early in my journey with Sébastien Loeb Racing and Polaris is a really great feeling.”

What was going through your mind when you crossed the finish line?

“Lots of pride and happiness for our Loeb Racing team, for Polaris and for FrayMedia who believed in us. It was a feeling of accomplishment, a relief to beat all our competitors. We also understood that it was the start of something for us in the automobile industry.”

Was there a moment where you knew you had a chance to win, and how did this affect you for the rest of the race?

“The 48H CHRONO stage is the “queen” stage of the Dakar, it was the longest, the most difficult for us and the machines, we won this legendary stage and gained an advantage over our competitors. This gave us a lot of confidence in ourselves, a lot of confidence in our Polaris RZR and total confidence in our mechanics. The next day, we increased the pace, took the lead in the race and never let go until the end.

“The last special was a mental game, we kept our heads cool and at the finish, we discovered at the same time as our mechanics what we had just done, it was incredibly emotional.”

What is the biggest challenge you faced on the road to victory? 

“Adapting to a new vehicle is always a big challenge – the Polaris RZR was brand new to us in last year’s Dakar, but this year, we had previously completed a race and had over 300 kilometres of testing. It is healthy, easy to use and reliable, so we succeeded in this challenge thanks to that.

“The 48-hour Chrono stage—taking place on the dunes without assistance—was another big challenge to overcome, especially on the mechanics of the vehicle. After experiencing the performance and reliability of the RZR in this stage, it gave us a lot of peace of mind from that moment on.”

How was this year’s Dakar compared to previous editions, and how did that affect your strategy when approaching each stage?

“It was a very difficult Dakar, very brittle, but Martin and I were solid. Our strategy was to attack very hard in places—over 10% of the race—and we were close to the limits at times, but the robustness of our SSV allowed us to do so.”

Were there any particular stages that played to your strengths, and others that you approached more cautiously?

“Yes, I did the Dakar on a motorcycle for 10 years, and Martin was also a motorcycle champion, and that experience meant that we both had great pace in the dunes, so we capitalised on that. On the other hand, in the rocky areas where the risk of damaging the vehicle is extremely high, we were forced to drive very carefully to avoid any breakages or additional costs to the team, and ultimately this helped us to preserve the mechanics.”

How does the Dakar experience in a side-by-side compare to being alone on a motorcycle?

“Taking on the Dakar on two wheels requires meticulous navigation. Both myself and Martin are very strong here and our understanding is good, so together we pushed each other for the better, which made the overall experience even better. It’s great to share this with a true friend.

“When I used to race in the motorcycle category, I attacked a lot. Back in 2021, I was at the head of the motorcycle race, and the next day, I was being airlifted to a hospital with a fractured spinal column. Now, in SSV, the fuse is no longer our body, but instead, it’s the machine. We bear a heavy responsibility to help Polaris shine in these gruelling conditions, but we do so without the fear of serious injury.”

What do you think gave you the competitive edge to win the Dakar Rally?

“Our high level of experience at Dakar helped us make a succession of good decisions and good strategies. The Loeb Racing team was in “commando operation” mode; we were very united. The mechanics did not make a single mistake, Sébastien Loeb was with us every day, and we remained humble. Heads down and feet on the ground – we were all extremely focused.

“The team’s unity and focus were complemented by the simplicity of driving the Polaris RZR. Simple driving pleasures are not to be overlooked in a long race like Dakar; like having confidence in the control and responsiveness of the vehicle, and feeling comfortable at the wheel. These factors allowed me to drive fast from the start until the very end.”

How do you think winning the Dakar will impact your racing career? What’s next for you and the team this year?

“For us, it feels like this victory has allowed us to be born in the automobile industry. We didn’t know if we were just good enough or if we had the potential to go further. Throughout these 15 days of racing at the Dakar Rally, we all saw that we had the potential to go fast and we all became aware of our abilities; the team, Martin and me.

“The rest will be exciting and we can’t wait to return to the desert!”

Notes to editors:

  • If you would like the opportunity to interview the Sébastien Loeb Racing Team / pilot Xavier de Soultrait, please contact

Image credit: DPPI FrayMedia / Sébastien Loeb Racing

For more information on the Polaris RZR Pro R Factory, please contact the Polaris ORV Media Office at

For more information on the Sébastien Loeb Racing Motor Racing Team, please contact Amandine at FrayMédia:



« The highest possible, the fastest possible»

When it was born in 2011, the Sébastien Loeb Racing Motor Racing Team has been chosen to match with the high ambitions of its founders, Dominique Heintz and Sébastien Loeb. These words have been respected from the first year of existence with an impressive track record since 2012. Building on Sébastien Loeb’s experience as a rally raid driver, first at Peugeot then at Prodrive, Sébastien Loeb Racing decided to write a new page in its history by developing a rally raid program within the team. with a 5-year vision, with the support of an SSV manufacturer, POLARIS.


As the global leader in powersports, Polaris Inc. (NYSE: PII) pioneers product breakthroughs and enriching experiences and services that have invited people to discover the joy of being outdoors since our founding in 1954. Polaris’ high-quality product line-up includes the Polaris RANGER®, RZR® and Polaris GENERAL™ side-by-side off-road vehicles; Sportsman® all-terrain off-road vehicles; military and commercial off-road vehicles; snowmobiles; Indian Motorcycle® mid-size and heavyweight motorcycles; Slingshot® moto-roadsters; Aixam quadricycles; Goupil electric vehicles; and pontoon and deck boats, including industry-leading Bennington pontoons. Polaris enhances the riding experience with a robust portfolio of parts, garments, and accessories. Proudly headquartered in Minnesota, Polaris serves more than 100 countries across the globe.