The 2021 Dakar Rally is now well and truly underway as competitors were set a punishing 277-kilometre route on Stage One. Rising to the challenge were the Red Bull Desert Wings squad who showed their offroad talents to take stage wins in the car, bike, lightweight vehicles and truck categories.
Setting the fastest time in the Lightweight Vehicles category was Cristina Gutiérrez. The newest edition to the Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team cleared every obstacle in her path and tonight she leads the Lightweight Vehicles general classification.
Gutiérrez has previously finished four editions of the Dakar in the car category and has now announced herself in the Lightweight Vehicles race with a stage win at the first time of asking. The Spaniard is the first female Dakar stage winner since Jutta Kleinschmidt in 2005!
« There were lots of very tricky things on the stage. We had one puncture, but I think everyone had at least one today. The work that my co-driver François did on the navigation was incredible because it was so tough today. » – Cristina Gutiérrez
Fellow Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team drivers Seth Quintero and Mitch Guthrie Jr. experienced differing fortunes on Stage One. Dakar debutant Quintero remains in the hunt for the big prizes while a series of punctures looks to have ended Guthrie Jr.’s shot at glory this year.
« This was my first proper Dakar stage and I’m super stoked to get it done. » – Seth Quintero
Also well placed in the Lightweight Vehicles contest are Chaleco López and Mattias Ekström.
« I had a clean run. Some very small navigation errors where we lost a maximum of one minute. » – Mattias Ekström
Even reigning car class champion Carlos Sainz could not escape from the difficulties presented by Stage One. Despite suffering a puncture and also a navigational hiccup, it was Sainz who took the stage win and takes over top spot on the leaderboard.
« There was a place where we got lost for three or four minutes, a place where lots of other cars got lost. » – Carlos Sainz
Pushing Sainz all the way on Stage One was his fellow MINI JCW Buggy driver Stéphane Peterhansel. 13-time Dakar winner Peterhansel eventually missed out on a stage win by just 26 seconds, but he has moved into second in the general classification.
« Navigation was not easy and there were a lot of rocks. It was so easy to get a puncture and we got one 30km from the end of the stage. Tomorrow’s stage also looks tricky. » – Stéphane Peterhansel
Although they were unable to match the pace of Sainz, there were steady drives on Stage One for Giniel De Villiers, Kuba Przygoński, Nasser Al-Attiyah and Cyril Despres. The news was not so good for nine-time WRC champion Sébastien Loeb as the Frenchman endured a difficult day.
« We were lost after 15 kilometres for 15 minutes. Then we were in the dust of the cars that had past us. We had three punctures and we got lost a second time. » – Sébastien Loeb
In the bike race, Toby Price leads the general classification after securing a stage win on the route to Bisha. It’s a great start for the Red Bull KTM Factory Racing rider who its hunting a third Dakar victory.
« There’s still plenty of chopping and changing to come in the standings. I’ll be doing my best to stay calm and let things cruise along. » – Toby Price
Price was joined by his Red Bull KTM Factory Racing team-mates Sam Sunderland and Matthias Walkner in today’s Top 5.
« When we were in the big stones it felt like we were racing the Erzberg Rodeo back home in Austria. » – Matthias Walkner
Also successfully completing the 277km bike stage between Jeddah and Bisha were Stefan Svitko, Daniel Sanders, Laia Sanz, Camille Chapelière, CS Santosh and Mohammed Jaffar.
« Welcome to the Dakar! This was not an easy day to have as your first Dakar stage. » – Camille Chapelière
In the truck race we have the familiar sight of Team Kamaz Master topping the rankings thanks to Dmitry Sotnikov’s stage win. Sotnikov has twice finished as runner-up in the Dakar truck category, this year it looks like he’s aiming to go one better.
Tomorrow sees the Dakar convoy leave Bisha and head to Wadi Ad-Dawasir. Early on in the mammoth 457km timed special stage will be a 30km section of dunes. It looks like things are not going to get any easier at the 2021 Dakar Rally.
2021 Dakar Rally Car Race Top 5 (after Stage One)
1. C. SAINZ (ESP) – Mini, 03:12:20
2. S. PETERHANSEL (FRA) – Mini, +00:00:08
3. M. PROKOP (CZE) – Ford, +00:02:59
4. M. SERRADORI (FRA) – Century, +00:06:13
5. Y. SEAIDAN (SAU) – Century, +00:07:53…
2021 Dakar Rally Bike Race Top 5 (after Stage One)
1. T. PRICE (AUS) – KTM, 03:43:58
2. K. BENAVIDES (ARG) – Honda, +00:00:23
3. M. WALKNER (AUT) – KTM, +00:01:12
4. S. SUNDERLAND (GBR) – KTM, +00:04:11
5. L. SANTOLINO (ESP) – Sherco, +00:04:59…
2021 Dakar Rally Lightweight Vehicle Top 5 (after Stage One)
1. C. GUTIERREZ (ESP) – OT3, 03:41:37
2. R. VARELA (BRA) – Can-Am, +00:01:55
3. A. JONES (USA) – Can-Am, +00:02:23
4. F. LOPEZ (CHL) – Can-Am, +00:02:37
5. G. FARRES (ESP) – Can-Am, +00:04:16…
2021 Dakar Rally Truck Top 5 (after Stage One)
1. D. SOTNIKOV (RUS) – Kamaz, 03:17:50
2. A. LOPRAIS (CZE) – Praga, +00:07:56
3. A. SHIBALOV (RUS) – Kamaz, +00:08:07
4. S. VIAZOVICH (BLR) – MAZ, +00:10:45
5. M. MACIK (CZE) – Iveco, +00:12:58…
Cristina Gutiérrez: « I’m so happy with my co-driver François (Cazalet), the car and all of the team. This was a very good day for us. There were lots of very tricky things on the stage. We had one puncture, but I think everyone had at least one today. The work that François did on the navigation was incredible because it was so tough today. »
Seth Quintero: « Overall today went well, we’re at the finish so that’s always good. We had some weird punctures that we picked up driving over silt. I saw a biker injured on the course so I stopped to help. For the rest of the stage we ran a smart pace. This was my first proper Dakar stage and I’m super stoked to get it done. My co-driver did an amazing job. »
Mattias Ekström: « I had a clean run. Some very small navigation errors where we lost a maximum of one minute. Maybe we were a bit too careful in the rocky sections and perhaps the set-up of our car was not optimum for that. When we hit the flowing sections I was really happy with how things were going. We will keep fine tuning the car and look to improve as the rally goes on. »
Carlos Sainz: « It was a difficult stage. There were lots of stones in one part and here we got a puncture. There was a place where we got lost for three or four minutes, a place where lots of other cars got lost. Overall we’re happy with the day. »
Stéphane Peterhansel: « It was not a long stage, but it was much more complicated than we expected. Navigation was not easy and there were a lot of rocks. It was so easy to get a puncture and we got one 30km from the end of the stage. Tomorrow’s stage also looks tricky. »
Nasser Al-Attiyah: « This was a very tricky stage today. We knew that we would lose some time opening the stage so we concentrated on driving and navigation. We had one flat tyre. Some of the rocks we had to get through were huge, I’ve never seen anything like this. »
Kuba Przygoński: « Parts of this stage were like a trials course. We had to slow down to around 50kph to pass over these large stones. We can be happy with the job we did. »
Cyril Despres: « We can’t complain because it feels great to be racing. We feel we are missing some rhythm but that will come back over these next days. It’s was Mike’s first stage in a rally-raid car and he’s learning quick. »
Sébastien Loeb: « I was a very difficult day for us. We did a bad stage. We were lost after 15 kilometres for 15 minutes. Then we were in the dust of the cars that had past us. We had three punctures and we got lost a second time. It was very, very difficult. »
Giniel de Villiers: « I tried to drive carefully because this was a really complicated stage. Unfortunately I had three punctures so that cost us a lot of time. It wasn’t easy starting in a lot dust and around 200km into the stage we took a wrong turn. We’ll keep trying to do the best we can. »
Toby Price: « I ended up getting a little bit lost about seven kilometres from the finish so that cost me some time. All in all, it’s been a good day. We tried to look after the bike and have no crashes. The tyre still looks pretty good. I think there’s still plenty of chopping and changing to come in the standings. I’ll be doing my best to stay calm and let things cruise along. »
Matthias Walkner: « This was a super tough stage. It wasn’t too long, but it came after a long liaison and the navigation was super tricky. When we were in the big stones it felt like we were racing the Erzberg Rodeo back home in Austria. My focus was on staying safe but in the end I think the result was quite good. »
Sam Sunderland: « We had a big mixture today. Some huge stony sections where it was difficult just to keep the bike upright. We also had some faster sections. I caught a bit of dust in the first part as I moved up from 27th. I finished 4th so that’s not too bad. »
Daniel Sanders: « It was cool to start third after yesterday’s prologue. I saw the Honda guys turn left ahead of me and I wasn’t too sure. This is my first year and I’m still learning the navigation but I should’ve trusted my instincts and not followed them. I ended up losing a lot of time because of this mistake, but after that the stage was fun. »
Camille Chapelière: « Welcome to the Dakar! This was not an easy day to have as your first Dakar stage. Personally, I enjoyed the day and I’m happy to hit my goal of reaching the finish line. I’m working on the navigation. »
CS Santosh: « This stage was more difficult than any of us anticipated so I’m glad to reach the finish. This was a hard stage and I think they’ve set the precedent now for what the rest of the rally is going to look like. »