Starting off in Jeddah and moving towards Bisha over 623 km, the first stage of the 2021 Dakar got off to a heated start for the car category which took a heavy toll on the competitors. Given the intricate rocky surfaces of the first part of the course, laser-like focus was required from the drivers.
The road to Bisha proved to be test of endurance for both tyres and nerves. Carlos Sainz claimed the first victory while behind the wheel of his X-Raid Mini and was followed by teammate Stéphane Peterhansel by a mere 22 seconds. Martin Prokop (Benzina Orlen) and Mathieu Serradori (SRT) finished third and fourth, respectively.
Hoping for a strong comeback after a number of troublesome years was Sébastien Loeb at the helm of the new Bahrain Raid Xtreme. Despite a strong start, a series of punctures and navigation errors impacted his pace, placing him 17th with a 22 minute and 46 second variation from Sainz.
Piloting the Toyota Gazoo Racing Hiluxes were Giniel de Villiers and Nasser Al-Attiyah who crossed the line in eighth and 10th place respectively. De Villiers suffered a throttle response issue during the prologue stage which forced him to start the lower down the order at 19th place. Despite suffering three punctures and navigational errors as well, he was able to gain 11 positions by the end of the stage.
Stage two, currently underway, takes the drivers from Bisha to Wadi Ad-Dawasir with a 457 km special route.
1. Sainz (Mini)
2. Peterhansel (Mini): +00:05
3. Prokop (Ford): +04:23
4. Serradori (SRT): +06:34
5. Al Qassimi (Peugeot): +08:14
6. Roma (Mini): +09:17
7. Przygonski (Toyota): 09:18
8. De Villiers (Toyota): +09:41
9. Seaidan (SRT): +09:53
10. Al-Attiyah (Toyota): +11:54