Few consider the prologue stage as relevant at the start of the Dakar. At the end of the day, it only serves to make a starting order for the first day of competition. It’s the typical day when you could lose a lot more than win, and Carlos Sainz got a scare. Without consequences, but that serves as a warning for the next few days. He had only covered two of the eleven kilometers of the timed stage when his co-driver, Lucas Cruz, warned him to stop: they had punctured. They got out, activated the Mini’s automated hydraulic jack system, changed the affected tire, lowered the car, and continued. «It didn’t start very well, since in the first kilometer we suffered a puncture, but hey, that’s what it is. The important thing is how it ends », the ‘Matador’ agreed, conscious and very veteran in the face of what may lie ahead.
In total it was only 36 seconds lost to the first winner, Nasser Al-Attiyah. The Qatari will open the track this Sunday, despite the fact that his time has been equaled by the unexpected Brian Baragwanath. The South African, who comes from quads (he won in 2016, with controversy), took the victory ‘ex aequo’, although he will start second with his Century on the first day of the race in conditions.
The Toyota leader will open the track this Sunday in Jeddah, with Baragwanath at the same time and the Saudi Al Rahji behind, eight seconds away. Beyond the results themselves, the important thing for everyone starts this Sunday, especially for those who feel more uncomfortable opening the track. Among them, Sainz himself, who will start from behind and therefore will have well marked the tracks on the first day.
In the motorcycle category, the champion Ricky Brabec did not give rise to surprise. The American is clear that on both wheels there is no room to speculate, but must shoot from the first minute to avoid scares. In this class, at any moment there can be a fall that puts you out of the race.
However, aware that the first stage will already be very tough, the HRC rider himself admitted that perhaps he should have relaxed. «I don’t know if it’s the best thing to win the prologue. It was not what I intended either, come on, but it’s nice to be in Saudi Arabia again. There has been good mud from the rain two days ago. The race has only just begun. In fact, it hasn’t even started. Starting tomorrow, to enjoy », he stressed.
It will start ahead of Joan Barreda. The Valencian, again the great Spanish hope, left just over 10 seconds, which allows him to face the first day of competition without too much pressure and the certainty that he can fight for the first stage victory in conditions.
Once they had all reached the finish line, the 286 competitors who will face the Dakar 2021 went through the podium in Jeddah to complete the always exciting start ceremony. Despite being less than last year, when 342 started, everyone was very satisfied to be able to compete in the Arab event, especially when 2020 has been so difficult for everyone.
In the presentations, the ‘speakers’ dedicated a few words of introduction to all the runners, although they obviously focused more on the favorites. That led to words such as Real Madrid being heard over the public address system, when Carlos Sainz’s name was announced, or Diego Armando Maradona’s when they did the same with the Argentine Orlando Terranova, who one more year will be one of the candidates for this Dakar.
The first stage of this Dakar, between Jeddah and Bisha, of 622 kilometers (277 timed) on hard track can give some scare to drivers who are not paying attention. It will be a good stone, never better said, of touch, and even punctures should not be ruled out. There can be no doubts.