Women racing 2022 Dakar Rally start each Stage with fresh motivations- why? because that is what gets them through to the finish!

Women racing 2022 Dakar Rally start each Stage with fresh motivations- why? because that is what gets them through to the finish!

Women racing 2022 Dakar Rally start each Stage with fresh motivations – why- because that is what gets them through to the finish. For sure, it is not just the good days of racing Dakar that keeps adrenalin pumping, these rare breed of females find extra doses of up-and-go when Dakar days do not go to plan.

Cristina Gutierrez and co-driver Francois Cazalet standing 5th Overall in Lightweight Prototype after Stage 5. Image Red Bull.

So much so, when results are broken down, the table board hardly touches on what each rider, driver, co-driver and Team crew go through from one day’s racing to the next. From the elation of riding in synch with bike over dunes to despair of not finding waypoint marker and then, losing so much time.

From the feeling of success when top 10 finish has been posted to feeling of despondency when another mechanical break-down sets competitors back hours. To, pushing speedometer to the limit only to succumb to the bite of Saudi terrain – making navigation that much trickier at night.

Stage 5 loop from Riyadh to Riyadh was split into 2 different routes for Cars and Bikes with Bike special Stage cut short due to sand-storm and lack of visibility. Leading the charge for Women in Lightweight Prototype was Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team driver Cristina Gutierrez and co-driver Francois Cazalet who made nice clear run to finish the day 4th in ranking. Currently standing 5th in General classification.

Solid performance by Yamaha Powered by X-raid Team driver Camelia Liporati and co-driver Xavier Blanco confirms consistency in maintaining vehicle to reach the finish each day means standing 8th in General classification at end of Stage 5. While female duo Annett Fischer and Annie Seel are equally pragmatic on how to complete Dakar Rally, finishing 32nd at end of Stage 5 and ranked 24th in General.

Marvelous debut performance by Merce Marti and co-driver Margot Lllobera holding their position to make it to the finish- finishing Stage 5 in 36th place and standing 21st in General. True, Merce recounts that driving Stage after Stage comes with difficulties like no other experienced or replicated in training. Merce on Stage 4: ‘Today’s stage was quite a challenge. 465kms of terrain changes- first on fast tracks, to different sized dunes, then rocky terrain. Dunes, dirt, mud, rivers and water! A whole challenge we’ve had to overcome’.

Taye Perry with driver Cyril Despres standing 17th Overall after Stage 5. Image Taye.

Certainly, Monica Plaza along-side her father Manola Plaza had more challenges that was fair to deal with in early Stages of Dakar. Mechanical problems, cut thumb, re-set for next Stage then most unfortunate incident with truck and the likeable daughter-father duo have been forced to retire. 

If there are 2 competitors who put more pressure on themselves to deliver top results it is X-Raid Mini JCW Team driver Laia Sanz and GPX Racing co-pilot Taye Perry. Both women have see-sawed through all challenges Dakar puts in their way, with Laia making up for lost time finishing Stage 5 in 29th position, one place below their General standing and Taye along-side 2x Legend Cyril Despres claiming 17th Overall after 5th Stage.

4 Women racing Bike category have their work cut out, especially racing against the strong winds in today’s shortened Stage 5. Mirjam Pol held her pace finishing in 54th place with Spanish rider Sara Garcia coming in 65th position. Unsurprisingly, debut rider Sandra Gomez held back on twisting the throttle too much, making safety and finishing each Stage count more than climbing table rankings.

French rider Audrey Rossat was equally cautious riding within safety margin to finish in 119th place. Audrey: ‘I didn’t like this Stage which was finally neutralized at 167kms. It was hard track with stagnant dust on the ground making it impossible to see. I wasn’t feeling reassured and this wind all day was starting to tire me- shooting on my body and giving me a headache. Still, I can’t wait for tomorrow to finish the first part of Dakar so I can enjoy the Rest Day- then attack week 2 of this Rally’.

Laia Sanz X-Raid Mini JCW Team standing 28th in General classification. Image: Team.

No-one can deny Can-Am Factory South Racing driver Molly Taylor’s exuberance for keep on-keeping on even when Dakar throws the most challenging of curve balls in the Australian and co-driver Dale Moscatt’s way. Molly admits, ‘Yes, I was a little bit over enthusiastic taking that sand dune and came up hard against square-knoll on other side, damaging the car, but we made it through to end of Stage 4 in the dark’,  and with blinking eyes managed to record video account of Stage 4 at 10.45pm.

Knowing how to race Rally is one thing, executing skills, knowledge and race-craft for 12 consecutive days in changeable terrain marked by unpredictable sand-dune-rocky sections makes even the most seasoned veteran of Dakar wince. For Women racing 2022 Dakar- not least Rest Day after Stage 6 will be welcomed relief to take a breather and re-set to tackle 2nd week of racing until final Stage 12 on January 14th.

2022 Dakar Rally Stage 6 Riyadh to Riyadh total 620kms with 404kms timed, January 7th.

Header photo: Camelia Liporati Image X-raid Team.

Words: Sharon Cox.









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