Dakar 2021| All the important action after six stages
Dakar 2021 has been one hell of a rollercoaster ride. There have been some heroic performances, disastrous starts, amazing display of sportsmanship, and some unfortunate crashes. Let’s quickly look at the surprises, upsets and how the rankings are before heading into Stage 7.
Toby Price, the current leader in the class hasn’t exactly had a consistent run this year. The Aussie finished Stage 1 and 3 in first position but in Stage 2 and 4, he was way back in the line-up, ending the stages in P28 and P22. In the next two stages, Toby finished P3 and P7. With dramatically changing terrains on every single stage, we’ve seen performances fluctuate frequently in the 2021 Dakar. Adding to that, the person who finishes first in a stage, opens the following stage. This means that with no tracks to follow, navigation becomes incredibly hard. This is one of the reasons why a rider hasn't won two consecutive stages.
Ricky Brabec, the defending champion, managed to finish in the top ten only in three Stages, which came as a surprise. Ricky is now in P13 overall and will look to turn things around after the rest day. Kevin Benavides on the other hand has put on a brilliant performance so far, by finishing in the top five in four stages out of six.
In the first six stages, there hasn’t been a single dominant rider as such due to the extremely physical stages. Navigation has also been really tough this time around. But after the rest day, expect things to become more competitive. Like every year, the competition in this class is extremely close. So close that the difference between P1 and P10 is just six and half minutes!
This category is still being dominated by familiar names — Sainz, Nasser and Peterhansel. 2020 winner Carlos Sainz got one stage victory and after that, a disastrous Stage 3 saw him finish in P20. After Stage 3, Carlos just had one task: claw back the time he’d lost. Despite his best efforts, he is at P3, 40 minutes behind Nasser Al-Attiyah. Nasser is currently in P2 but has three stage wins under his belt and is showing no signs of slowing down. With just five minutes of difference between him and Peterhansel, the battle between the two has been nail-biting.
Nine time WRC title winner Sebastian Loeb on the other hand is having a woeful year. To start with, in Stage 1, he had three punctures which cost him a lot of time. In Stage 4, he earned a penalty because he broke the speed limit and in Stage 6, the already frustrated French driver was left stranded with a broken suspension arm. Finally, going into a much needed rest day, especially for him and his co-driver Daniel Elena, they’re at P44.
Rookie Henk Lategan was having a strong debut at Dakar until a huge crash and a fractured collar bone ended his impressive run. Yazeed Al Rajhi too got a surprise P2 in Stage 6 to split Carlos and Nasser. The last time he was in top ten was in Stage one, so after five stages he’s back among the top drivers’ lot.
Kamaz-Master has won 17 Dakar titles as a manufacturer and with top 3 spots locked out by the team in overall standings, looks like they might just take home their 18th win as well. Dimitri Sotnikov is currently leading the charge for the team with a 37 minute lead.
Maz-Sportauto’s Siarhei Viazovich snuck in a surprise Stage 3 win and remains the only non-Kamaz winner so far this year.
If anything, the rest day would just give Kamaz more time to revisit strategies and strengthen their onslaught.
Indians in Dakar
One of the most unfortunate events of Dakar so far this year was CS Santosh’s massive crash. The rider had a crash in Stage 4 during which he suffered an impact on his head. Thankfully, the medical team intervened immediately and CS is now recovering fast. He is currently in a medically induced coma to speed the healing of the head trauma and a dislocated shoulder. Before the crash, CS was riding impressively and had moved up eight positions, from P42 to P34.
Rookie Ashish Raorane who was taking part in the Original by Motul category, suffered a season ending crash in stage 5. The Original by Motul is considered the toughest class in Dakar as the riders have no outside assistance and in case of breakdowns, they will have to work on their bike by themselves. Ashish is currently on the road to recovery too. In his shortened 2021 Dakar run, Ashish has earned huge respect from the fans of the sport. In a display of sportsmanship, the rider stopped to help KTM rider Matthias Walkner mend a broken clutch in Stage 2.
Harith Noah remains the only Indian to be on the grid right now and has been performing well too. Harith is now in P35 and his cautious approach in his second Dakar appearance has helped him finish the first six stages quite consistently.
As Stage 7 kicks off after a much-needed day of rest, expect the action to get more intense. It is in these Stages that the participants really feel the pressure.