The Dakar Rally: gruelling challenges and a possible boycott

The 2021 Dakar Rally is presently in full swing with the 277km long rally stage 1 taking place on the dunes in Saudi Arabia in the first leg from Jeddah to Bisha.

The Dakar Rally is accepted amongst the motorsport’s fraternity as one of the most gruelling challenges spanning a total of ten to fifteen days where participants find themselves covering distances on average of over 5000km over sparce desert landscapes.

By the Dakar standards the opening stage was relatively a short one however, the route comprised of several curveballs and unique challenges with competitors having to navigate through tricky intersections and challenging terrain.

Many drivers including the infamous rally legend Carlos Sainz Sr. has commented that the Covid-19 pandemic will “double the pressure” on competitors due to the uncertainty caused by it.

Consequently, the rally has also faced heavy criticism from several human and female rights activists for holding numerous stages in the conservative kingdom of Saudi Arabia who are presently facing allegations of ‘sport-washing’ to hide and whitewash the hosts human rights crimes.

Dakar Rally organisers however defended their choice of Saudi Arabia as hosts claiming that this was part of the kingdoms “2030 vision” to increase its openness; the country has recently held high-profile football and boxing matches and will also hold its first Formula One grand prix in 2021.

However, the rally powers on with The Dakar completing stage 4 on Wednesday, 6 with leaders in the general ranking as follows:

  • Kevin Benavides (ARG): Bikes
  • Nicolas Cavigiliasso (ARG): Quads
  • Stephane Peterhansel (FRA), Edouard Boulanger (FRA): Cars
  • Francisco Lopez Contardo (CHL), Juan Pablo Latrach Vinagre (CHL):   Light-Weight Vehicle’s
  • Dmitry Sotnikov (RUS), Ruslan Akhmadeev (RUS), Ilgiz Akhmetzianov (RUS):            Trucks

By Randev Jayasinha

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