Dakar 2021 gallery: spectacular images from the rally raid classic

Rally News

The 2021 Dakar provided yet another spectacular set of images, as drivers and riders battled the arid, dusty conditions. See some of the best photographs in our image gallery

Stephane Peterhansel and Edouard Boulanger in the Mini Buggy of the X-Raid Mini JCW Team races during the 10th stage of the Dakar 2021 between Neom and Al-ʿUla, in Saudi Arabia on January 13, 2021.

Dakar legend Stéphane Peterhansel took his 14th overall Dakar win, 30 years after his first

Flavien Duhamel/Red Bull Content Pool

Held in Saudi Arabia for the second time, the incredible Dakar 2021 provided its customary thrills, off-road heartbreak and extreme tests of human endeavour, not to mention an even greater amount of navigational controversy than usual.

Dakar legend Stéphane Peterhansel took the overall cars win in the X-Raid John Cooper Works Mini buggy, his 14th overall win and 30 years after his very first, achieved whilst competing in the bike category.

A disgruntled Carlos Sainz finished third overall in another John Cooper Works Mini, the four-time Dakar winner complaining that this year’s event was too reliant on navigation, likening it to a “gymkhana”.

Competitors this year were given their navigational roadbooks fifteen 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 for Bahrain 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 when the recovery truck brought 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 ACO, labelling its stewards “incompetent” after they handed him a five-minute time penalty for exceeding the speed-limit in Stage Four.

Two punctures in the first 80km of Stage Eight, when he only had one spare tyre, forced him to retire.

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The Frenchman also backed up Sainz on the navigational front, saying it was a “race of co-drivers”.

Kris Meeke made his Dakar debut, and despite more than a few setbacks managed to make the finish. After setting fastest time in the Prologue, Meeke’s spare wheel caught fire when his electronics overheated on Stage One.

Meeke’s PH Sport Zephyr Buggy then broke two drive shafts during the marathon stage, meaning he had to drive a considerable length of the event with only two-wheel drive.

Despite commenting that Dakar was “trying to crush my soul”, the indefatigable Ulsterman somehow made the finish.

Francesco Lopez Contardo won Meeke’s Lightweight Vehicle category, whilst Kevin Benavides became only the third non-European to take overall victory in the Bike class.

On the Quads Manuel Andujar took the win with a 33min 34sec advantage, as Dmitry Sotnikov scored an assured victory in the Trucks category, finishing 40min ahead of Kamaz team-mate Anton Shibalov.

Sadly one rider will not be returning home: Pierre Cherpin, 52, lost his life following a crash on the seventh stage of the Dakar.