While Saudi Arabia made a strong impression on the hearts and minds of the competitors of the 2020 Dakar, it was only a sneak peek of its geography. Come 2021, its vast and diverse landscapes will set the stage for a new tour of the desert in which riders, drivers and crews enter uncharted territory. Although some of the towns and cities that hosted the bivouac last January will be returning, the action will be brand-new!
2021 route: Arabia as never seen before
VÉRIFICATIONS - JEDDAH : 1 ET 2 JANVIER
DÉPART - JEDDAH : 3 JANVIER
JOURNÉE DE REPOS - HA’IL : 9 JANVIER
ARRIVÉE ET PODIUM FINAL - JEDDAH : 15 JANVIER
A prologue in Jeddah
On the shores of the Red sea, the vehicles will rev up their engines and open the first gaps on a spectacular course designed to keep fans on the edge of their seats. The opener will be decided by seconds.
Two loop stages
Some regions (and the quest for technical sections) are worth staying a bit longer to discover everything they have in store. It also gives support crews a well-deserved breather.
A marathon stage
The marathon stage fits the spirit of rally raids and the Dakar like a glove. Riders, drivers and co-drivers will have to marshal all their physical, mental, technical and strategic resources… while leaving something in the tank for later. A superb balancing act.
The economic heart of the country was the scene of the arrival of the Dakar in Saudi Arabia in 2020. The ships and planes transporting the vehicles, competitors, and support teams will follow the same path in 2021. However, this time round, Medina will also close the loop and host the finish of the rally.
For centuries, Ha'il was a stop on a trade route between the Red sea and Mesopotamia. The region is also famous for its numerous rock faces covered with rock art, which stand as reminders of the presence of human populations going almost 10,000 years back. However, true connoisseurs also know the region as the cradle of rally raids in Saudi Arabia. The core of Saudi riders and drivers formed around Ha'il, whose annual rally is the major event of the rally raid community.
Skill over speed
The sporting teams in charge of preparing the 2021 edition of the rally have focused on fleshing out the new navigation system introduced last January and slowing down the vehicles to make the race even safer.
Road book to be handed out just 10 minutes before the start
Mediocre competitors can memorise a road book from A to Z, but real navigators know how to read and interpret it on the fly. The cream of the crop shone in the stages of the 2020 edition in which road books were handed out right before the start. In 2021, this will become the general rule.
The road book will also experience a quantum leap in usability with the introduction of a digital version, which is more reliable than the paper one, in certain categories.
Aural warnings and slow zones
The road book already highlights danger zones, but from now on competitors will also receive aural warnings in the approach to difficulty 2 and 3 zones to keep them alert. Furthermore, certain especially tricky and hazardous sectors will be categorised as "slow zones" where the speed limit is 90 km/h.
Spare (the) tyres
In rally raids, tyre management usually plays a decisive role and determines just how hard the competitors can push their vehicles. No tyre changes will be allowed in the car category during the marathon stage —not even between competitors. Each motorbike will be granted a total of six rear tyres for the entire rally.
Airbag vests now mandatory
Airbag vests, which are already in use in several road categories and in MotoGP, can reduce the severity of injury in a serious crash. They will now be mandatory and subject to inspection by race officials during technical scrutineering.
Penalties for piston changes and ban on work at refuelling stations for motorbikes
Penalties for engine changes were introduced a few years ago to encourage bikers to ride carefully. From next year, time penalties will be applied starting from the second piston change even if the rest of the engine remains the same. Finally, bikers will no longer be allowed to work on their motorbikes at refuelling stations.
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