Kristen Matlock commands ultimate respect for racing Dakar Rally 2021 with Polaris RZR Factory Racing Team

Kristen Matlock commands ultimate respect for racing Dakar Rally 2021 with Polaris RZR Factory Racing Team

Kristen Matlock commands ultimate respect for racing Dakar Rally 2021 with Polaris RZR Factory Racing Team finishing the 12 Stages under Dakar Experience category.

Kristen Matlock Dakar Rally 2021 Shakedown Photo Credit: Kristen

Becoming America’s first female to race and complete The Dakar Rally SSV class in history, Kristen’s inspirational result not only re-sets the bar on what Women can achieve racing outside their home country, but also raises awareness on how a wife-and-husband partnership can gain success amongst supportive family, friends and Team crew.

Truly fascinated on what makes this remarkable woman-Mum- tick to even tackle the challenges of racing Dakar for the first time, there is no doubt Kristen’s character, courage, and sense of conviction shines through bright and clear for all to see.

From streaming up-dates through-out the entire Dakar Rally- pre-during and post each Stage, to delivering details on the Team’s set-up from support Trucks and supplies to crew mechanics and chef, to sharing personal and professional moments when plans didn’t work out- Kristen rode the roller-coaster of racing Dakar as a true pro.

Kristen: ‘I was nervous heading into racing The Dakar for the first time. Planning and all preparations to race with Polaris RZR Factory Racing Team was an amazing opportunity, even more so along-side my husband racing his own vehicle- yet there was the fear of the unknown to overcome’.

Kristen Matlock podium finish under Dakar Experience 2021 Photo Credit: ASO.

‘Having raced Baja at home, knowing how these Rallies operate, the rules and time-frames of racing- to not knowing what Dakar held was out of my comfort zone. I didn’t know what to expect being a female racing in Saudi Arabia, nor did I expect being a Rookie would be easy!’.

There were myriad of daily encounters, pre-during and post Dakar Stages which tested Kristen’s resilience- her sheer will power to face challenges head on and not fold under pressure. Rising above problems within extreme circumstances takes huge amount of self-belief along with capacity to take step-back from it all unfolding- re-centre and focus on goals ahead.

Kristen: .Racing with Polaris RZR Factory Team was a 3 year programme- the first Dakar sounding out how the vehicle would perform over 12 Stages. There were factors which influenced performance as racing got underway- 1: Polaris RZR weighs 380lbs more than competitors SSV’s 2: 24mm intake restriction tested our Team’s engineers to max out performance on route’.

As soon as we completed Dakar and arrived back home, modifications are being incorporated in the new builds for racing Dakar Rally 2022. Yes, it was frustrating when mechanical issues occurred, but we all knew programme to achieve competitive capabilities in top rankings was progressive strategy over set period of time’.

Early indications in Prologue and Stage One reassured Kristen that racing abilities in The Dakar were equal to far more seasoned competitors. Together with co-pilot Max Eddy, Stage One rankings were 10th Overall, 17 minutes shy of top position. Whether ultimate test of how-far-we have-come to race Dakar to not-being-able-to-finish end of Stage 2 pushed new race plan for Kristen, the likeable #TEAMUSA driver carried on.

Kristen Matlock with Polaris RZR Factory Racing Team.

Kristen: ‘Racing Stage 2, coming over a sand dune there was shift at peak, then sudden drop-off and vehicle literally launched mid-air and landed separating chassis from car. It was bitter blow, as our back-up truck with crew worked through-out the night trying to repair the damage. We eventually made it back to bivouac at 5.30am with 3 hours before Stage 3 would start’.

Not knowing if this moment would end our Dakar, was stressful. When we learnt we could re-enter racing under Dakar Experience minus result under General Classification, there was some respite to level out anxiety of finishing the Rally’.

It takes courage to accept disappointment, not so much realizing what is done is done- now move on, but to actually lock the experiences into the overall objective which was a 3 year staged programme of racing with Polaris RZR Factory Racing from Rookies to seasoned legends.

Without a doubt Kristen re-wrote the meaning of Rookie-Legend all in one. First, she had all capabilities of racing Dakar and achieving top result. Second, she placed heart and soul every time she sat in drivers seat- gender difference was no issue in Overall standings. Third, Kristen knows what is important, knows how to stay grounded even amid dire circumstances and that is a truly inspirational character trait to have.

Special thanks to Kristen for her time. Header photo: Kristen Matlock Dakar Rally Stage One photo Credit: ASO.

Words: Sharon Cox.

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