Rally Raid7 min

All our dreams of dunes and dust will come true at the 2021 Dakar Rally

For the best offroad racers on the planet, the first two weeks in January can mean only one thing – it’s time to tackle the Dakar Rally once again.
Written by Tim SturtridgePublished on
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 Dakar convoy 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).
You get nothing for free at the Dakar
Carlos Sainz of X-Raid Mini Team poses for a portrait in Dubai, UAE on November 24, 2020.
Carlos Sainz
Rally Raid Car
A trio of Toyota Hilux machines will de driven by Nasser Al-Attiyah (QAT), Giniel de Villiers (ZAF) and Kuba Przygoński (POL). Former car race 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.
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.
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). 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.
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.
It’s the one everybody wants to win
Toby Price poses for a portrait during Red Bull Dakar line-up in Dubai, United Arab Emirates on November 21, 2020.
Toby Price
Rally Raid Bike
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).
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.
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).
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 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 are welcomed back to Jeddah on January 15 where they will be handed their prestigious bronze Dakar trophies.