The second stage of the Dakar Rally 2021 in Saudi Arabia was held along the route Bisha – Wadi Al-Dawasir on Monday, January 4.
Sunday’s special stage became a real challenge for racing vehicles and crews. Promised by the organizers three percent of the stony areas stretched for many kilometers and made the contestants approach their overcoming seriously. There was a feeling that this natural “sandpaper” made up a significant part of the distance of the first stage. Many riders slowed down to a minimum and still could not avoid punctures, and the nine-time world rally champion Frenchman Sebastien Loeb changed three wheels on his car.
The stone jungle on western outskirts of Saudi Arabia was discussed at the bivouac for a long time. As well as the impenetrable thiclets in the form of bushes and trees, which representatives of the truck category could hardly pass. Dry and tenacious like a hook branches, literally tore apart bodies of trucks, and some crews, making their way through narrow tunnels, lost their windshields.
Such abundance of trees is easily explained if to look at the end point of the stage – the city of Bishu in the same-name province in the south of the kingdom. Local fertile lands are of great agricultural importance for the country. The water resources of the Red Sea, as well as a large wadi (the Arabic name for dried-up river beds), stretching for tens of kilometers, became the ground for cultivation of 3 million palms and other trees.
The longest valley on the Arabian Peninsula became a haven for a rally-marathon caravan for one day, after which the line of sports crews headed east to Wadi Al-Dawasir, well known from last year. In the morning before the start of the second stage, which was held in a mixed mode, the organizers recounted the time of yesterday’s sports day. But it did not influence the position in the rankings. The first four trucks entered the distance behind 25 off-road cars with an interval of a minute: at the head of the convoy to conquer 457 kilometers of the special stage was the overall leader in T5 Dmitry Sotnikov from KAMAZ-master, followed by the Czech Ales Loprais, the Russian Anton Shibalov, and then the Belarusian Siarhei Viazovich.
The winding track opened the first dunes of the Dakar 2021, alternating with fast sandy valleys and plateaus. And here, together with high level of driving, navigator’s experience of finding the right direction to the control point came to the fore. A 30-kilometer dune section in the first third of the route and dried-up river beds, that came up to the race contestants in the middle of the distance, restrained a little powerful engines of multi-ton vehicles. And the speed increased only in the second part of the route, where winding sandy tracks inside huge canyons, formed by mountains of black stone, began. Spectators would surely appreciate the stunning landscape, while the crews were completely focused on the race.
The fastest in the truck category of the race was Dmitry Sotnikov’s crew. He overcame all 10 time points, as well as the finish line with the best result and won his second stage at the Dakar 2021, spending 4 hours 37 minutes 44 seconds. The truck with the race number 507 had to lose a little time only in one section when trying to climb up the dune.
Dmitry Sotnikov, pilot of crew No 507: “Three kilometers after the start serious dunes began, and we tried not to speed up. I didn’t even manage to take one of the dunes from the first time, we had to go down and repeat the maneuver. We saw many jeeps hanging on the peaks, hardly anyone was ready for the dunes. They were very loose and padded and we tried to drive safely. After 170 km faster roads began. In the neutralization zone we didn’t see our guys. And the second part of the stage was faster and more navigational. Cars began to catch up along straight roads, but they did not interfere. It was even easier, the dust from them served as a guide for us.“
Airat Mardeev backed up the overall leader, being 3 minutes 17 seconds behind. Having started tenth among trucks, the Russian crew got down to business from the first kilometers, overruning their rivals one after another. The driver climbed five positions in the standings – fifth place and almost 30 minutes behind Dmitry Sotnikov.
Airat Mardeev, pilot of crew No 509: “Today was the first good long special stage. Working, with first dunes. We waited for it with some flutter, as I had not driven on the dunes for more than a year, and it was exciting. At first we were careful in the dunes, then rolled in and drove at our own pace. We managed to overtake almost all the trucks that started ahead, except for Dima Sotnikov and Siarhei Viazovich. We are happy with this day, the pace was good. We got into our high-speed niche, I hope tomorrow there will be less dust and we will be able to pass the special stage in a stable way.“
Everyone who participates in rally-raids knows about the wiliness of the dunes. On sticky sand, it is important to operate the gas pedal correctly and try to avoid stops. One wrong action and the truck will stand in the sand, rotating the wheels in place. Experienced Anton Shibalov, climbing up a dune of a middle height, fell into a sand trap on a small straight area. Having got out of the natural trap of the Arabian expanses with the help of the Czech Martin Soltis, the driver showed a stable fast pace, only slowing down a little at the end. At the finish line, the lag of the representative from Naberezhnye Chelny was 14 minutes 14 seconds.
Anton Shibalov, pilot of crew No 501: “We lost about 15 minutes at the start, when we got stuck in the first sands. It’s a good thing that Soltis got us out quickly. We went further to the finish line well, at our pace.“
Despite difficult conditions of the second stage, density in the results was quite high. The third and fourth places were taken by Siarhei Viazovich and Aliaksei Vishneuski, who immediately after the start had problems with GPS. The Belarusians lost to the winner six and a half and seven and a half minutes, respectively. The Czech Martin Macik, who became the fifth for the second day in a row, lost almost 11 minutes to Dmitry Sotnikov. It should be noted that, following the results of yesterday’s special stage, the sports officials issued a one-minute penalty to the driver. Perhaps this was a consequence of his behavior on the track, when the Iveco driver did not give way to other crews.
Andrey Karginov had an excellent start at the special stage. At the start, the organizers moved the driver from the priority list to several positions forward, thereby “setting him free” from the need to overtake slower crews. At the 257 km mark, the defending winner of the Dakar showed the second best time, losing a bit more than a minute to his team-mate, however, like yesterday, he faced technical issues: first, rear axle tire inflation failed, which in the KAMAZ-master team hadn’t happened with the current generation of trucks for several years. But that’s not all: one by one both rear wheels exploded. Left without spare tires, crew No 500 drove with the utmost accuracy during the second half of the stage, but keeping high racing pace. This allowed them to finish on the 11th position, with the lag of 25 minutes.
Some time later, Ignasio Casale received a 5-minute penalty, which allowed Andrey Karginov climb to the Top-10. Airat Mardeev received one-minute penalty as well: the Russian saved the second place at the end of the day, but he became the sixth in the overall standings. The reasons for the penalties are unknown yet, details will be announced later.
On Tuesday the Dakar contestants will have the first loop stage with a start and finish in Wadi Al-Dawasir. Its total length will be 630 km, 403 km of which will be against the clock. Fast riders will have the opportunity to increase their advantage on the sandy special stage.
Truck category. Classification of the 2nd stage. Тоp-10
|8||506||Martin VAN DEN BRINK||RENAULT||04:58:38||00:20:54|
Truck category. General standings after the 2nd stage. Тоp-10
|9||506||Martin VAN DEN BRINK||RENAULT||08:44:48||00:43:09|
|10||501||Maurik VAN DEN HEUVEL||SCANIA||09:11:38||01:09:59|