Al Qaisumah to Ha’il
January 08 2021 – 19:54 [GMT + 3]
In the heart of Saudi Arabia, Ha’il was for a long time the crossroads of the trade routes between the country’s main cities. Over the last ten years, it has especially become the capital of all-terrain rallying, where an active community of enthusiasts has boosted the discipline’s development. On the way there from Al Qaisumah, the Dakar competitors will have understood why the Saudis living in the region have such a passion for 4×4 excursions: due to sand, sand and more sand. In the form of dunes of varying size, spread over large expanses or covering both narrow and wide tracks, success on the day’s timed section relied on the capacity to tame this instable material. Fortunately, the rain that occasionally falls in the area made the terrain quicker than expected. Be that as it may, the riders and drivers still in the rally will have greatly deserved their rest day.
The two Spanish competitors who triumphed in the bike and car categories are genuine collectors. Through picking up his third success this week, Joan Barreda has also entered the history books alongside his countryman Jordi Arcarons, who also boasts 27 specials on his roll of honour, and with whom he shares the characteristic of never having won the Dakar, despite his talent and experience on the rally. If the Honda rider wishes to rectify this situation, he will have to make up time on the leading trio led by Toby Price, who has a small advantage over Kevin Benavides and Ignacio Cornejo, both less than three minutes behind. Carlos Sainz, with his 38th stage victory in Ha’il in front of Yazeed Al-Rajhi, is also in the position of pursuer, but with a much heftier amount of time to make up, namely forty minutes on the duo of Peterhansel and Al-Attiyah, who have been head and shoulders above the rest since the start in Jeddah. As for Sébastien Loeb, he is definitively out of contention for victory after breaking a suspension arm at the beginning of the special. The wait for its replacement’s arrival and installation by his assistance team could multiply the time gap twofold, threefold or even fourfold… Also let down by mechanical problems, “Chaleco” López lost less time but had the position of general standings leader taken from him by Aron Domżała in the lightweight vehicle category, whilst Seth Quintero beat the record for precociousness by winning the day’s special (see performance of the day). The one-two-three finish by Kamaz on the stage finishing near Ha’il also enabled the Russian team to monopolise the provisional podium and cover it with blue, a fine way to celebrate a new record (see stat of the day).
Performance of the day
Following Cristina Gutiérrez, the first woman to taste stage victory on the Dakar since Jutta Kleinschmidt in 2005, it was today Seth Quintero’s turn to cause a sensation at the end of the sixth special for lightweight vehicles. At the age of 18 years and 118 days, the American has become the youngest ever winner of a special on the Dakar. Also a recruit from the RedBull Off Road Team USA like his female colleague, he looks set to be involved in many forthcoming duels on this 2021 edition of the Dakar.
A crushing blow
So far this year, Chaleco López has been on the podium of four specials including the prologue and had displayed exemplary consistency until the start of the sixth stage. However, the Chilean, who opened the way for his rivals, unfortunately suffered a mechanical problem just after the midway point of the stage. The delay incurred lasted for almost one hour and the price he paid was a heavy one, because he now finds himself at the foot of the provisional podium more than 36’ behind his successor Aron Domżała at the top of the general standings. It was certainly not the result López was wishing for before the rest day on his tenth Dakar, but it also most certainly will not be the Can-Am driver’s last word on the matter…
Stat of the day: 150
Kamaz took pride of place on the sixth special that finished near Ha’il. After taking the lead just after the midway point, Airat Mardeev managed to hold on and pick up his first success since 2018. More importantly, he offered the Russian team their 150th stage victory in the history of the Dakar, drawing them level with Mitsubishi and behind KTM, who are well ahead with 224 triumphs. In this collection that began in 1999, the majority were won by the “Tsar” Vladimir Chagin, the record holder in the truck category with seven titles and 63 stage victories obtained between 1999 and 2011.
The makings of a Classic
The Peugeot 504 Pick-up enrolled by Italians Roberto Camporese and Umberto Fiori dates from 1982 and has been totally reconfigured in the spirit of the era. The crew are in last place in the Dakar Classic standings, but are continuing their way along Saudi Arabia’s tracks.
Quote of the day
Stéphane Peterhansel: “The positive point is the new team with Edouard”
The record holder for Dakar triumphs has reached the rest day as leader of the general standings, with a lead over Nasser Al-Attiyah that he deems too small to feel comfortable.
“If we take stock after one week, then, yes, it’s been a good week, a really good week, because we didn’t make many mistakes. We saw that the car is displaying really good performance. If I need to mention a negative point, it would be two things: yesterday when we got lost, we were just turning round and round and the feeling was really bad because we thought we had lost five, ten or fifteen minutes and it’s not a good feeling. Also the prologue, the first really small stage – I was really too safe and after that I said to myself, ‘shit, I’m too old for this fight, my speed is not good’, so those were the negative points. The positive point is the new team with Edouard. This is the first time we’ve done a race together like the Dakar and also for him, he has never done the Dakar as a co-pilot. He’s done a really good job and I have a really good feeling with him, so it’s really nice”.