The bravest offroad racers on the planet are heading back to Saudi Arabia to face-off at the 2021 Dakar Rally. After a season like never before, the focus returns to the toughest test of endurance that motorsports has to offer. The Red Bull Desert Wings squad will be chasing glory on the perilous 7,646km loop when the rally gets underway on January 2.
Reigning car class champion Carlos Sainz (ESP) is once again behind the wheel of his MINI JCW Buggy as he chases a fourth Dakar victory to add to his two WRC titles. Also at the controls of a MINI JCW Buggy will be 13-time Dakar winner Stéphane Peterhansel (FRA).
« Of course it is possible to win again – but you get nothing for free at the Dakar. » – Carlos Sainz
A trio of Toyota Hilux machines will de driven by Nasser Al-Attiyah (QAT), Giniel de Villiers (ZAF) and Kuba Przygonski (POL). Former winners Al-Attiyah and de Villiers will be leading the charge to put the Hilux back on the top step of the podium. Three-time Dakar winner Al-Attiyah is in especially hot form having won the first round of the Hail Baja this month.
« It is time to go back to Saudi and challenge for victory again. » – Nasser Al-Attiyah
Back for his fifth drive at the Dakar is nine-time WRC winner Sébastien Loeb (FRA). The Frenchman will be debuting Prodrive’s BRX T1 machine – featuring a bespoke 3.5-litre turbocharged engine.
« The car is very compact, so that makes it quite agile, nice to drive. » – Sébastien Loeb
Also rejoining the car category in 2021 is five-time Dakar bike race winner Cyril Despres (FRA). Co-driving for Despres in their Peugeot 3008 DKR will be explorer Mike Horn (SUI) who has discovered a new passion for the beautiful landscapes of rally-raid. The duo’s car will be loaded with sensors to pick up data for their innovative and ambitious project to compete at the 2023 Dakar in a hydrogen-powered vehicle named GEN-Z.
« We can bring our contribution to build the next generation of rally-raid cars. » – Cyril Despres
It’s been a long 12 months for Red Bull KTM Factory Racing after their 18-year winning run at the Dakar came to an end in January. They’re returning to Saudi Arabia determined to get back on top and have three former Dakar winners in the saddle: Toby Price (AUS), Sam Sunderland (GBR) and Matthias Walkner (AUT). It will be a Dakar debut for KTM Factory Racing Junior Rally Program rider Daniel Sanders (AUS) as the 6 Days Enduro winner looks to gain rally-raid experience.
« The Dakar only happens once a year and it’s the one that everybody wants to win. » – Toby Price
Also looking to compete at the sharp end of the bike race will be CS Santosh (IND) alongside top female rider Laia Sanz (ESP). They’ll be a Dakar debut for KTM rider Camille Chapelière (FRA) as well as Mohammed Jaffar (KUW).
« I always fight to the end » – Laia Sanz
There was plenty of excitement generated in the Side-by-side (SxS) category at the last edition of the Dakar, thanks in no small part to the Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team. Stage winner at the 2020 Dakar Mitch Guthrie Jr. (USA) is back and joined by 18-year-old rookie Seth Quintero (USA). Quintero is the back-to-back Best in the Desert champion back home in the States and will be the youngest driver at the upcoming Dakar. The third member of the Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team in Saudi Arabia will be Cristina Gutiérrez (ESP) who will be aiming to finish her fifth Dakar. This trio will be racing the OT3 by Overdrive.
« I’m looking forward to finally getting to race Dakar, it’s been a long time coming. » – Seth Quintero
Also entered into the SxS race is circuit racing star Mattias Ekström (SWE) as he gears up for his first shot at the Dakar. Elsewhere in the category we can find former Dakar SxS champion Chaleco López (CHI).
Ekström, López and the Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team trio will be all be racing in the new Light Weight Vehicles category which groups both T3 Light Prototype Vehicles and T4 SSV Series classes under the same umbrella. This new contest is sure to provide a great battle across the fast growing Side-by-side field.
Since the new millennium all but four editions of the Dakar truck race have been won by Team Kamaz Master. The Russians are out to make it back-to-back victories in Saudi Arabia with an elite squad of four drivers who have three Dakar wins between them and a combined 31 stage wins. The Russian foursome are: Andrey Karginov, Ayrat Mardeev, Anton Shibalov and Dmitry Sotnikov.
« The trucks have been seriously renewed and our drivers are coming to fight for places on the podium. » – Andrey Karginov
The Kamaz crews will face a fresh challenge in 2021 as three-time Dakar quad race champion Ignacio Casale (CHI) returns to the truck category.
New for the 2021 Dakar Rally will be an opening day prologue to prepare the starting order for stage one. The prologue stage will take place in Jeddah on January 2, and on the following day the entire Dakar convoy will depart for 4,767km of timed racing. The eventual winners will be welcomed back to Jeddah on January 15 where they will be handed their prestigious bronze Dakar trophies.
Carlos Sainz: « I am ready for the Dakar, both mentally and physically, and the MINI JCW Buggy is also working very well. This will be my third Dakar in a MINI, and we have improved from year to year. Of course it is possible to win again – but you get nothing for free at the Dakar. I definitely feel fast enough to challenge for the win. »
Stéphane Peterhansel: « The first Dakar in Saudi Arabia was actually much better than any of us expected. The landscapes were just incredible. Before the race I saw a lot of pictures to get a feel of what to expect, but the reality of being there was when I could really appreciate how stunning is this country’s scenery. »
Nasser Al-Attiyah: « I am so happy to be back at the Dakar, driving the Toyota Hilux again. We won with that car in 2019, and finished second in 2020. Now it is time to go back to Saudi and challenge for victory again. »
Giniel de Villiers: « The Dakar is always a tough race, and last year proved that Saudi Arabia lived up to the toughness of the Dakar. We’re looking forward to taking on the race again in January, and we are ready for another tough challenge in the dunes and tracks of Saudi. The Hilux feels better than ever, and I’m confident that we have the right car for the upcoming race. »
Sébastien Loeb: « The car is very compact, so that makes it quite agile, nice to drive, more difficult to make some mechanic [changes] because everything is really compact, but we need a strong car that does not break and we are working on it. »
Cyril Despres: « To develop Gen-Z we need a lot of data. We are competing at the 2021 Dakar so we can collect as much information as we can to help build the next generation of rally-raid cars. »
Toby Price: « The Dakar only happens once a year and it’s the one that everybody wants to win. There’s always nerves and we all wonder how our rivals are going to perform. You don’t know how your performances will compare with the others until the competition gets started. That’s why I can’t wait for day one to kick off. »
Sam Sunderland: « During my first experience of the Dakar in Saudi Arabia I was really amazed by the terrain and the scenery that we passed. A huge part of the rally is adventure and discovering new places. »
Matthias Walkner: « For me personally, it would be super cool to win again but there are ten other riders who also have the skills to win. Another podium finish would be really nice. »
Daniel Sanders: « The bike is great and handles so well, it’s really stable at speed. I know I have a lot of knowledge to gain but the rest of the team have been great. »
Mohammed Jaffar: « This will be the first time I will get to participate in the Dakar Rally. It’s a huge challenge. This race is tough on anyone, no matter your racing background. »
Laia Sanz: « I always fight to the end and in recent years I’ve sneaked into the Top 15, but last time it came out a little worse. Because of injury I wasn’t able to give my best and I want to go back and get rid of the bad taste of that experience. »
Mitch Guthrie Jr.: « The 2020 Dakar had a lot of highs and a lot of lows and we learned so much along the way. Now we’re coming back after putting a lot of work into the car and we’re expecting even better results this time. »
Seth Quintero: « I’m looking forward to finally getting to race Dakar, it’s been a long time coming. Unfortunately I missed the 2020 Dakar because I was 17 years old, but now I’m heading there to race and I can’t wait. »
Cristina Gutiérrez: « Racing the Dakar in Saudi Arabia is going to be really cool. All the drivers are really excited to get started. The Dakar is a race that so many people dream of doing just once so I know how lucky I am to be going back there for a fifth time. Competing at this race has always been my dream. »
Mattias Ekström: « It has always been a dream of ours to drive the Dakar. After all, I have never driven a race car on sand or in the dunes before. »
Chaleco Lopez: « This is my tenth edition of the Dakar and I go with everything, as always, to seek first place from the beginning with my team. The idea is to fight for the lead from day one. »
Andrey Karginov: « Arriving to the Dakar this year is fraught with various difficulties. Nevertheless, the list of competitors is impressive in all categories. And most importantly, given all the circumstances of the outgoing difficult year, really ambitious rivals will come to the start in Jeddah. No one wasted time. The trucks have been seriously renewed and our drivers are coming to fight for places on the podium. »