Held in Saudi Arabia for the second time, the 2021 Dakar gave us its customary thrills, off-road heartbreak and extreme tests of human endeavour, not to mention an even greater amount of navigational controversy than usual.
Stéphane Peterhansel took the overall car win in the X-Raid John Cooper Works Mini buggy – his 14th victory, 30 years after his first, achieved while competing in the bike category. A disgruntled Carlos Sainz finished third overall in another John Cooper Works Mini, the four-time Dakar winner complaining this year’s event was too reliant on navigation, likening it to a “gymkhana”.
Competitors this year were given their navigational roadbooks 15 minutes before the start of each stage, as opposed to the day before, meaning they had no time to add their own notes
Sébastien Loeb – competing in the new Prodrive-run BRX-Hunter Raid Xtreme after a one-year Dakar hiatus – endured a torrid rally. Things started to go wrong for the 2017 runner-up on stage five, after he suffered two punctures and got lost in the desert.
He then broke the suspension arm on his BRX-Hunter on the next stage, and was left waiting for eight hours in the desert only for the recovery truck to bring the wrong parts to fix it – two right suspension arms instead of one right and one left.
Loeb next found himself embroiled in a row with the event’s officials, labelling the stewards “incompetent” after they handed him a five-minute time penalty for exceeding the speed limit in stage four. Loeb’s misery was compounded when two punctures within the first 50 miles of stage eight, when he only had one spare tyre, forced him to retire.