However, our representative in the official Honda team, Joan Barreda, did not suffer the same fate. The Castellón rider concluded his Dakar on the penultimate stage. Barreda had a navigation error and did not stop on refueling. A few kilometers later he ran out of fuel and was forced to abandon. According to the Spaniard, “the fall of two days ago has taken its toll on me today. I really wanted to continue in the race and finish as well as possible, but it couldn’t be ”. Many attribute his confusion to the fact that he could not bear the pressure when he entered the special on January 13 in the fourth position of the provisional classification.
The truth is that this Dakar has been unique. The vast majority of participants, if not all, had to face serious navigation problems, especially the pilots who opened the track. David Castera, the director of the 2021 Dakar Rally, gave the keys to how this year’s race was going to be: “It will be more difficult and technical than last year. We have made the navigation very difficult and perhaps we will have to slow down to find the right path ”. There was a moment in the first week of the rally that even Carlos Sainz was outraged with the format of the Dakar 2021, with much more relevance for navigation, to the point of calling the race a “gymkhana”. “It is a lottery, it is not driving. I am demoralized. I have been 14 dakares and I have never missed two days and half an hour. They all get lost, I don’t like it. This is not the Dakar ”.
KTM: No victory, but proud
The KTM team lost its spearhead, Toby Price, as he had to abandon at kilometer 155 of the ninth stage after suffering a heavy fall. The Australian, who was second in the provisional of the race, just over a minute behind Jose Ignacio Cornejo -who also said goodbye to the Dakar after a heavy crash in the tenth stage when he was leading the general classification-, had to be evacuated by helicopter to the Tabuk hospital to determine the extent of the injuries to his left arm and shoulder. The two-time Dakar champion can only leave the witness to his teammate Sam Sunderland -third in the provisional on that day-, because Matthias Walkner lost more than two hours in the second stage to solve a technical problem that forced him to make repairs in the middle of the special. According to Sunderland and Walkner: “This is the most difficult Dakar I have ever done.”
Jordi Viladoms, head of the KTM Rally Team, summarized the performance of his team as follows: “Overall I am satisfied with how the rally went. After fighting throughout the race, finishing on the podium is positive. Without a doubt, this event has been a huge challenge for all the competitors. It has put not only the drivers to the test, but our entire team. I am very proud of everyone’s effort ”.
“Hats off to Sam’s performance (Sunderland), he was super consistent throughout the rally and he gave it his all. Climbing positions in the general classification was not easy but he pushed when necessary. It’s amazing that our rookie driver Daniel Sanders finished fourth, especially considering the level this year has been. In addition, he has only been able to prepare for four months ”.
Santolino and Sanz: Our heroes
Our best representative was Lorenzo Santolino. The Sherco rider did a Dakar without crashes, without technical problems and without notable navigation errors, essential if he wanted to get into the Top 10 of the general classification. However, like any participant in the Dakar, the race was not a walk. The man from Salamanca suffered, for a good part of the race, gastrointestinal complaints and also suffered a lot with the tires. But it should be noted that Lorenzo was the only rider in the top ten who did not drive a Honda or a KTM, which increases his feat as the Sherco, a priori, is one notch below the performance of the big three -Honda, KTM and Yamaha-. In fact, Santolino’s confirmation, the consolidation of Jaume Betriu and the brilliant irruption of Tosha Shareina He gives us a glimpse, in the near future, of a Spaniard at the top of rallies.
Yes, Laia Sanz does not fail. The Catalan started the 2021 Dakar Rally very far from her best form because as she told us before the start of the race “I contracted the Epstein-Barr virus, I cracked my tibia and I had to deal with Lyme disease” (caused by a tick bite). It didn’t look too good for the GasGas pilot, but Laia again showed off her strength and went from less to more as the days progressed. The strategy was very clear: ride at a pace with which she felt comfortable to take shape and let the stages go by. The first week was not easy, but without making big mistakes, without losing more than necessary, without falling and taking care of the mechanics Laia Sanz finished the Dakar again, 11 of 11. “This is the Dakar in which I have been most excited,” said Corbera de Llobregat. “It has not been the edition that has been the hardest, but it has been for me due to the lack of preparation and the problems with the disease.”
Classification of the rest of Spaniards: Jaume Betriu, 12th; Tosha Schareina, 13th, Joan Pedrero, 15th, Oriol Mena, 16th; Laia Sanz, 17th; Marc Calmet, 34th; Sara García, 44th; Javi Vega, 47th; Eduardo Iglesias, 53º; Eladio Carbonell, 54º; Rachid Al-lal Lahadil, 55th; Fernando Domínguez, 56th; Juan Campderà, 61st; Daniel Albero, 62nd.
By the way, we would like to highlight the historical victory that Cristina Gutierrez. The Red Bull Off-Road Team USA rider she won the first stage of the 2021 Dakar in the Light Vehicles category, becoming the first woman to achieve a victory in the race after the feat of the German Jutta Kleinschmidt in 2005. Nor should we forget Sara garcia that, competing in the Original category (without assistance), he has also reached the goal improving his 2020 result; and finally for the third and fifth final place of Carlos Sainz and Nani Roma in the car race.
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