Dakar Rally 2021 ready to go! countdown 2 days out- what lies ahead?

Dakar Rally 2021 ready to go! countdown 2 days out- what lies ahead?

Dakar Rally 2021 starts in 2 days time, competitors are at Jeddah, vehicles have arrived-unpacked-reassembled and all COVID tests complete for drivers, riders and crew to stay safe within Dakar bubble. Starting Stage One at Jeddah, the world’s most grueling Rally will take on it’s 43rd edition in ‘L’espirit Dakar’.

Dakar Rally 2021 field Photo Credit: ASO.

Most significantly, the huge undertaking of Dakar organization to race amid such extreme challenges of COVID pandemic remains testament to the level of passion, dedication and commitment to continue the legacy of Dakar which was established way back in 1977.

The route traverses across 12 Stages, starting in Jeddah on January 3rd, heading inland before reaching Saudi Arabia’s historic city of Ha’il marking half-way point. From the Rest Day after Stage 6, competitors will face increase in altitude before heading west to the coast, racing final leg returning to Jeddah on January 15th.

Total of 7,600kms will be covered of which 4,700kms are timed in Special Stages, providing 2021 Dakar Rally’s 555 competitors ultimate Dakar experience over 13 days. For 83 ‘Legends’ including 2 women: Laia Sanz and Camelia Liporati, racing Dakar remains the extreme test of human physical endurance, mental tenacity and emotional durability which each have repeated 10 x. For the 144 Rookies, Dakar 2021 presents a life-time opportunity to test their levels of performance under pressure to complete their first Dakar Rally.

#391 Camelia Liparoti and Annett Fischer racing Yamaha , X-Raid Yamaha Racing Rally Team Photo: Florent Gooden

With changes in place, 2021 Dakar offers levelling of racing on terrain ‘unforgiving’ to competitors if mistakes are made. Key rule modifications are: mandatory airbags, delivery of road-books just before each Stage start along with limitation of 6 tyres for entire race.

Reasoning for changes: to ensure greater safety for competitors, making navigation preparation same for all, and challenging bike competitors to manage tyre performance in relation to speed and route navigation. In practical terms, only replacing bike’s back tyre every two Stages will test riders ability to race at pace while preserving tyre sustainability to last Stage distances.

The scenario is not new. Formula racing drivers encounter challenge of racing at speed while simultaneously maintaining tyre performance, no matter what track conditions offer- cold, hot, wet or dry. In relative terms to increase safety of Dakar Rally riders, the provision of limitation of tyre use would act as additional challenge for each rider, without imposing strict speed limits through-out 12 Stages of the race.

The entry of Women competing in The Dakar takes unique turn with female drivers and riders utilizing the Dakar experience to broaden awareness of professional women racing vehicles across categories: Bike, Car and SSV-Light Prototype. Not only do these women possess incredible amount of experience racing hard-Rally across unknown terrain, they represent strong-hold of female racers whose passion for racing prompts utmost respect.

Sara Garcia Dakar Rally 2020 Photo Credit: ASO

Competing in Bike category are 4 women: Laia Sanz racing with GAS GAS Factory Team has set phenomenal record competing and finishing 10 consecutive Dakar’s. Sara Garcia will race ‘Original by Motul’ Unassisted category for 3rd consecutive year having made history as the first Woman to complete the class in 2020. Rookies Sara Jugla and Audrey Rossat will make their debuts with Team Baines Rally for Sara and Team RS Concept for Audrey- both racing KTM 450’s.

Racing in Car category will be Taye Perry who pairs with Brian Baragwanath under Century Racing CR6. Taye gained massive amount of experience competing in Dakar Bike category 2020 finishing Overall in 77th place, offering all important navigation skills with Brian in driver’s seat. Spanish racer Monica Plaza will pair with her father Manolo Plaza in Dakar’s only father and daughter duo, under Sodicars Racing.

Light Prototype holds ‘Legend’ driver Camelia Liporati paired for 2nd consecutive year with Annett Fischer. Racing within X-Raid Team of 4 competitors on board Yamaha YXZ1000R will certainly add to the mix of top manufacturer Brands to complete the marathon 12 Stage Rally. SSV category witnesses for the first time, entry of Polaris Factory Racing Team of 4: Kristen Matlock racing Polaris RZR with co-pilot Max Eddy. Husband Wayne Matlock will race same model with co-pilot Sam Hayes.

Up-dates on racing to follow on www.mxlink.co.nz. Header Photo: Laia Sanz, Credit: ASO.

Words: Sharon Cox.

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