Renault in Dubai desert test for Sherpa and Kerax

French truck maker tests 6x6 racer and concept 4x4 ahead of Dubai CVME

The Sherpa (foreground) and Kerax 6x6 race truck. Photo: C Gerbich
The Sherpa (foreground) and Kerax 6x6 race truck. Photo: C Gerbich

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Truck manufacturer Renault has given its Kerax 6x6 racing truck and Sherpa concept SUV a desert shakedown in Dubai ahead of this week’s Commercial Vehicles Middle East show.

The 450.26 Kerax 6x6, a racing truck developed from Renault’s road transport range, served as official support vehicle for the Dakar rally in Argentina, and participated in the famous Renault Trucks expedition in 2009 between Cape North in Norway and Cape South in South Africa.

The truck is powered by an 11-litre inline six-cylinder engine that develops 1580lb.ft of torque, feeding that power to the road, dunes or whatever surface in happens to be mowing over at the time, via a 16-speed manual transmission.

In the hands of veteran Paris-Dakar and endurance racing specialist Gilles Chauve, the Kerax is an impressive off-road monster. The onboard tyre inflation and deflation system is used to constantly tune the vehicle to the conditions, and Chauve is as busy with the buttons on the control panel as he is with the gear lever.

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“You have to constantly read the sand. You also have to always give yourself a way out, always have an option that you know you can get out safely,” he said as the massive red machine crashed over the crest of a dune. With its front wheels hanging in mid-air, power from the rear pushes the truck over the crest as the chassis rails in the centre of the truck act as pivots while momentum carries the truck over the rest of the way.

“It’s all about momentum,” he said. “You have to surf the sand, keep your momentum up and keep the power on. Once the power drops in this soft sand, it is over.”

The Renault Sherpa is a concept SUV based on the Sherpa Scout, a military truck first developed in 2006 and tested for more than two years in the toughest desert conditions of Saudi’s Empty Quarter. Renault earlier announced that it had intended to release the Sherpa in three body styles to the civilian market, but Europe’s financial situation has put these plans on hold for the meantime.

The Sherpa has a ground clearance of 600mm, an approach angle of 40 degrees, and the same sort of centralised tyre inflation system used on the Kerax making it capable of tackling the harshest and most difficult to access off-road terrain in the Middle East.

It’s not small either. It is 5.43 metres long, 2.35 metres wide, and 2.1 metres high, the Sherpa Scout has ABS assisted four-wheel disc brakes and an automatic Allison gearbox. It is powered by a 5.0-litre diesel engine and has a range of around 160km. It weighs six tons.

You can see both trucks at the Commercial Vehicles Middle East show at the Dubai International Convention & Exhibition Centre between March 6-8.

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