Tele Radio and Firemen Dakar team take rally to new heights!

Posted on March 31, 2021 at 7:12 am

Greater safety thanks to unmanned driving by radio remote control.

The Dakar rally is one of the world’s most exciting and challenging mix of conditions, people, and of course technology, in which motorcycles, cars and large trucks race to safely reach the finish in the shortest possible time. Nevertheless, under these conditions, ‘safety’ is a subjective concept… Richard de Groot’s Firemen Dakar team and Tele Radio therefore decided to test the use of a radio remote control during this year’s rally. This enabled the vehicle to traverse dangerous sections of the course, such as steep slopes, with no-one on board. Is the future in unmanned driving?

The Dakar rally is an incubator – you might even say an innovation platform – where rally drivers test new technologies that could give them an edge over their competitors. Typically, the innovations are in the areas of performance, efficiency and road handling, and also in safety. And this was exactly what triggered Richard de Groot to contact Tele Radio.

Tele Radio designs, develops, manufactures and supplies safe, certified industrial radio remote control systems. Founded in 1955, the Swedish parent company focused on innovation and growth from the outset. Today, the company has facilities in Europe, the US, Australia and Asia, plus a worldwide network of dealers.

Safety first

Richard de Groot comments, “The technology is developing at an amazing pace, and those with the smartest ideas will literally go the furthest. But at all times, your first priority is the safety of the team. For rally drivers this means perfect training, both physically and mentally, plus perfect equipment. Still, despite the measures you take, there are always situations when you can’t eliminate every risk. That was what inspired us to try using a remote control to get the truck from A to B over dangerous terrain unmanned. During dangerous situations this means: climb out, drive the truck remotely, climb back in, and get racing again.”


Tele Radio proved to be the right partner. For several years, this company has been testing its remote controls on mobile machinery in the Scandinavian timber industry. It saves the crane operator considerable time when he can move the support vehicle without leaving the crane cabin. Managing Director KeesJan van de Elst says, “Our name for the collaboration with the Firemen Dakar Team is the ‘Remote Rally Project’, or RRP. For the firemen it’s a great safety outcome; for us it’s also a perfect opportunity to stress our systems to the max under severe, sandy conditions and extreme temperatures.”

And onwards…

The experiment was an immediate success, and also kick-started some new developments on the RRP. Managing Director KeesJan van der Elst states, “The next step in this project aims to enable a rally vehicle to drive autonomously over a longer section of the route. The associated tests are in full swing and show good results. When the current Iveco is back from the painter, this system will be added to the development work.” Richard de Groot proudly adds, “In four years we’ve grown from a team of three men and one race truck to a team with a race truck, a complete 8×8 service truck and hospitality truck quarters. We also now have a marketing and back-office team, and a lot of volunteers. We love a challenge; the bigger the better. And the use of these remote controls is definitely one of those!”