Rally Dakar 2021 starts with countless COVID-19 tests and a shortened scrutineering process: this year, the Rally is throwing extra hurdles at competitors, and some teams are already struggling.
Today, King Abdullah Stadium in Jeddah welcomed Dakar 2021 competitors for technical and administrative checks, but this year, the entire process was compressed into a day and a half, and access to the area was very limited. In addition, just to be able to compete, racers had to submit negative COVID-19 tests 72 hours before their flights, then be tested again when in Saudi Arabia and self-isolate at the designated hotels. Some of the competitors’ mechanics, navigators, and co-pilots tested positive, leaving the teams scrambling to replace them last minute – something the Rally has not seen before.
Dakar 2021 is set to kick off tomorrow with a short, 10-kilometer prologue stage just outside Jeddah, bringing the competitors back to King Abdullah Stadium. On January the 3rd, the race begins with a 345 km liaison and a 277km special to Bisha. Organizers say the entire special stage will mainly consist of tracks rather than open desert but warns competitors to watch out for rocky sections and preserve their tires.
Despite all the new challenges, last year’s Dakar winner, American Ricky Brabec, seems to be in good spirits – and ready to race. “A year later, I get to fly number 1 and there’s only one way to top it…Feels great to be back and I’m looking forward to starting the new year off right”, Ricky said in a recent Instagram post. Whether the first American Dakar champion is going to repeat his success this year or not, Dakar 2021 is going to be an interesting race to watch. And given the circumstances, it’s a miracle the rally is happening at all.
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Featured image: Dakar.com