The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was able to lure the attention of the whole world, as it became within a few years, an attraction for international events. One of these events held in the Kingdom for the second time in a row is the most dangerous and grueling race - The Dakar Rally.
About the Rally
An ambitious idea that originated back in 1977, The Dakar Rally – over the years – became one of the most sought-after rallies for professional drivers from all over the world. The Dakar – formerly known as the Paris-Dakar Rally – is an off-road annual endurance event that was staged in many countries over the globe from France to Senegal and South America. The Dakar is a rally made for all kinds of cars, motorcycles, trucks, desert fast cars, and UTVs. Since the rally is an off-road race, the participating vehicle's terrain is usually much tougher than typical races where most of the competition takes place in crossing dunes, mud, camel grass, and rocks. With tailored routes, the race comprises of 12 stages where each stage covers distances up to 900 kilometers. Dakar 2021 in Saudi Arabia
Over 300 participating vehicles and more than 60 nationalities racing to win, the Dakar rally – for the first time in 40 years– takes the competition outside South America’s borders. In 2020, the Rally was held in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia – thanks to its rich tapestry of landscapes - making it the first Arabic country to ever host such an international event. And for the second consecutive year, the rally once more takes to the Saudi dunes. The race started on January 5 in Jeddah, the second-largest city in Saudi Arabia which is located on the western coast, passing through most regions of the Kingdom from Bisha, Neom, Hail, Empty Quarter, Buraydah, Wadi Al Dawasir, Riyadh, Sakaka, Yanbu, and Al- Ula, and concluded on January 15th in Jeddah, after going through 12 stages and covering more than 3,000 miles.
The 2021 Dakar Rally saw 295 vehicles entering the competition across all classes. A total of 501 participants competed in the rally, which also included 16 women, which is three more than last year.
The main focus of the rally this year was on the driving techniques in addition to the crossing and navigation skills of each driver.
According to the Rally's organizers, the nationalities with the highest participation in the race were from France, Spain, and the Czech Republic.
Participating in The Dakar There are certain requirements for drivers to be eligible to participate in the race and they are as follows:
- For the competitor to be financially able to participate in the race, each contestant is required to pay a financial fee (which is not a small one) usually paid in installments for participation in the competition
- Drivers have to be older than 18 years old with an off-road rally license
- High physical ability as drivers undergo stamina tests and heavy training
- Experience is on top of this list as professional drivers need to have off-road experience, not necessarily a rally-raid champion - that qualifies them to be a part of the rally
- Amateurs are allowed to participate in the same rally and on the same route
- Non-drivers can be a part of the rally as well by applying for the assistance team, however, mechanical knowledge and skills are a must
The Dakar and COVID-19
Due to the pandemic, the Dakar Rally saw some notable changes than that of last year with participants undergoing PCR tests before arriving and a 48-hour quarantine upon arrival. Not to mention that it featured the lowest participation since 1995 by 22%, however, big names in the rally such Yazeed Al Rajhi, Lucas Cruz, Sebastien Loeb, and others have competed in this year’s edition
2021 Rally New Rules and Safety Measures
The safety measures for the 2021 Rally had been enhanced to make the sport safer especially since Dakar 2020 saw the death of two drivers, which made safety a number one priority in this year’s race. These measures include:
- For cars, an electronic roadbook is handed over to participants 10 minutes before the start of every stage
- For motorcycles, an electronic roadbook is handed over 20 minutes before the start of every stage
- Airbag vests are mandatory for all participants on motorcycles and quads
- Slow speed zones had been added this year to avoid any mishaps
- The new Dakar classic division for vehicles saw a shorter route with easier terrains.
As is common in all races, the first-place winner wins a prize and, in The Dakar, sponsorship companies sign a deal with drivers to pay them a sum of money on the completion of the race. However, most riders compete in this event to get their participation trophy of the Dakar Rally with their name on it.
Winners of the Dakar Rally 2021
1st position - Kevin Banavides from Argentina (Monster Energy Honda Team 2021) 2nd position - Ricky Brabeck from the USA (Monster Energy Honda Team 2021)
3rd position - Sam Sunderland from Great Britain (Red Bull KTM Factory Team)
1st position - Manuel Andujar from Argentina (7240 Team)
2nd position - Giovanni Enrico from Chile (Enrico Racing Team)
3rd position - Pablo Copetti from the USA (MX Devesa by Berta)
1st position - Stephane Peterhansel & Edouard Boulanger from France (X-Raid Mini JCW Team)
2nd position - Nasser Al Attiyah from Qatar, Matthieu Baumel from France (Toyota Gazoo Racing)
3rd position - Carlos Sainz and Lucas Cruz from Spain (X-Raid Mini JCW Team)
1st position - Francisco Lopez Contardo & Juan Pablo Latrach Vinagre from Chile (South Racing CAN-AM)
2nd position - Austin Jones from the USA & Gustavo Gugelmin from Brazil (Monster Energy CAN-AM)
3rd position - Aron Domzala & Maceij Marton from Poland (Monster Energy CAN-AM)
1st position - Dmitry Sotnikov, Ruslan Akhmadeev, Ilgiz Akhmetzianov from Russia (Kamaz-Master)
2nd position - Anton Shibalov, Dmitrii Nikitin, Ivan Tatarinov from Russia (Kamaz-Master)
3rd position - Airat Mardeev, Dmitriy Svistunov, Akhmet Galiautdinov from Russia (Kamaz-Master)