The world has changed due to the current ongoing health crisis and so has the motorsports world. All schedules for all sports have been paused for months and as they resume their activities they are doing it in a slow way. The world of rally raid hasn’t been any different, resuming their activities just last week. This time of season we use to have the famous Morocco Rally, a huge test for anybody racing Dakar next year because it’s the perfect scenario with similar track conditions and specially to test the machines against the competitors to see if there’s room for improvement. Obviously this year was practically impossible to make the rally so the Dakar officials had to look for another option to test their new rules like the digital road book and the airbag suits for the bike competitors. These are just a couple of the biggest changes for the upcoming 2021 Dakar Rally.
Andalucia is the closest territory to the African continent with enough space to do a week-long event, while also having a terrain which in part is really similar to north Africa and due to the rising crisis in Spain, in less than a month they managed to put together the Andalucia Rally and more important it had the biggest names in the rally raid industry as entries.
The type of race track was a little bit closer to Rally than Rally Raid, and at first that was an advantage for the 4×4 cars, more nimble and fast in the tight sections of the Sevilla region. The format of the race consisted of a 9km prologue stage to determine the start order next day and warm up the machines.
With only a few kilometers of road section the first of the four stages with 258 kms of timing stage didn’t disappoint at all having a duel between Mini and Toyota and also the 4×4 versus 4×2. The Mini team smartly put to work their two most experienced drivers, the French Stephanne Peterhansel in charge of driving the Mini 4×4 and the Spaniard Carlos Sainz in the 4×2 buggy. The Frenchman with the 4×4 car was the favorite, but a small incident let Sainz past his teammate in second the fight between the Toyota of Saudi Alrahji and Qatari Nasser Al-Attiyah.
The second stage this time was won by Nasser Al-Attiyah while Carlos Sainz kept working hard to maintain the Mini buggy in between the tight sections of the Andalucia rally, meanwhile Alrajhi kept pushing hard to maintain himself in the fight but a 10 minute penalization due to exceed the max speed in a safety zone practically ended his race with only 250km ahead in the next stages.
The final stage with faster terrain allowed to the two-time WRC champion and three-time Dakar Winner Sainz to put pedal to the metal reaching the stage win and second place overall just 3.4 minutes behind winner Nasser Al-Attiyah with his Toyota 4×4 which was more adapted to this type of terrain and seems clear that with the difference in performance between Toyota and Mini I have a clear winner next Dakar Rally: Sainz and Mini. Yazeed Alrahji ended up in the last position of the podium and Mr. Dakar himself in 4th.
In the SXS category the winner was the polish driver Aron Domzala with a Monster Energy Can-am reaching 6th overall to the finish line. Good job to the American driver Mitch Guthrie Jr. with the victory in the category SSV T3 proving that the OT3 buggy and Overdrive Racing are getting ready for the next Dakar. Now it’s time to wait a couple of months to see if our bets are correct when the Dakar rally starts, if Covid-19 allows it, and we hope it does.
Photo credits: Andalucia Rally