Matthew Stevenson, a regular at the Dakar Rally in the late 1990s and 2000s who helped develop Volkswagen‘s factory programme for the legendary race, passed away Monday at the age of 53. He reportedly collapsed at his home in France after suffering a brain aneurysm the week prior.
Stevenson began his career working for an automobile company owned by current FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem before becoming a mechanic with Marlboro Rally Team in the FIA Middle East Rally Championship. He eventually became a cross-country rally co-driver, teaming up Jutta Kleinschmidt in 1997 and notching a pair of podiums before débuting at the Dakar Rally the following year, where the duo won the final stage and placed twenty-fourth overall.
With Stevenson calling the shots, Saeed Al-Hajri finished sixth overall in 2002 as part of Mitsubishi’s factory effort. The following year, he switched to BMW and worked with former ski champion Luc Alphand and placed ninth. The Stevenson/Alphand tandem also enjoyed success outside Dakar by winning the 2003 Baja Germany.
The Briton migrated to Volkswagen in 2004 where he helped the fledgling team and WRC alumnus Bruno Saby score a sixth in a Touareg. Stevenson remained involved with the team through 2006. In 2007, he and Michael Peterson finished twenty-third at Dakar, and they continued to work together at the 2008 Central Europe Rally (the replacement for Dakar after its cancellation), finishing nineteenth in the general ranking.
Stevenson eventually settled down after ending his racing career and lived a private life in France.
“He was a truly special person who brought joy and laughter to everyone around him,” said Al-Hajri. “His passion for rally racing and his unwavering support and encouragement made him an incredible teammate and friend. Matthew will be deeply missed, but his memory and spirit will live on in the hearts of all who knew him. My thoughts and condolences go out to Matthew’s family and loved ones during this difficult time.
“Rest in peace, my friend. You will always be remembered and never forgotten.”