Grueling, exciting, and enthralling, the Dakar Rally is known as the world’s most challenging and, for many, most anticipated rally. Founded in 1978 and considered motor sport’s ultimate endurance race, the Dakar Rally is an annual cross-country rallying organized by the Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO), and has for four decades been the ultimate off-road sport for adventure seekers. The 43rd edition kicks off in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, marking the Kingdom’s second consecutive year to host the world-renowned event. As racers from across the globe descend on Saudi Arabia, we’re taking a look at the top 3 highlights from Dakar Rally 2021 so far.
Saudi Scenery In The Spotlight
This year, Dakar Rally is being held in Jeddah and said to take place on a 4,767-kilometer track across Saudi Arabia. This means that racers will be able to experience the Kingdom’s diverse desert scenery, stunning landscapes, and perhaps surprisingly varied climates.
“[T]he 2021 route will be a journey of exploration. Everything will be brand-new, including every single kilometre of the specials,” as stated on the official website, www.dakar.com. On the final stage, which will be held on January 15, racers will get an astonishing view of Jeddah’s Red Sea when crossing the finish line, which is said to remind long-time Dakar spectators of Senegal’s Lac Rose.
The Dakar Rally is said to be the hardest and most grueling race in the world, and this edition in Saudi Arabia will be no different. Dakar races usually take place off-road, which means that racers would have to endure unfavorable terrains, possible injuries, and high risk of vehicles breaking down far away from urban areas.
So far, the 2021 event promises to be just as tough, with stage 5, which was held on January 7, proving to be the toughest day in the year’s event with racers having to deal with sandy dunes, rocky valleys, and lack of directions.
Female Participation In Saudi Motorsports
Hosting the Dakar Rally in Saudi Arabia saw a significant contribution to female participation in the Kingdom’s motorsport scene. For example, the 2020 event saw the debut of the Kingdom’s female team called the “Shero,” led by fellow racers Dania Aqeel and Mashael Al Obaidan. The team is currently participating in this year’s event but will compete in 2022.
Some of the best female racers from around the world, who competed in previous Dakar events, have been participating in the Saudi edition of the rally as well, such as Laia Sanz, Sara Garcia, Cirstina Gutierrez, among others. Sanz, just as in the previous events, is expected to maintain her lead in the Female Class this year, and the event saw Cirstina setting the fastest time in the Lightweight Vehicles class.