IMAGES: ASO / DPPI
It would seem the Covid 19 pandemic will not halt the running of the 2021 Dakar Rally. The organisers, the ASO, have scouted an all-new course, modified a few rules for safety’s sake and with entries opening on June 15 it’s all go.
Again the plan is for the rally to stay within Saudi Arabia, this time following a circular route, starting and finishing in Jeddah. The dates are start: Jan 3, finish: Jan 15.
Safety has been a big issue following the deaths of two moto competitors in 2020, and clearly the ASO and interested parties have been consulting to find the best way to keep the moto competitors as safe as possible. So for this edition there is a raft of rule changes:
- The road book will be handed out just 10 minutes before the start of each stage – for every stage.
- The roadbook will now give aural warnings to the riders when they approach danger zones. As well, particularly tricky or hazardous zones will be limited to 90km/h.
- The motos will be limited to just six rear tyres for the entire rally. So much like in the marathon stages, the riders are going to need to make their rear tyre last two stages, a product of which should be more cautious riding, maybe less speed, as the riders need to preserve their equipment.
- Airbag vests will be mandatory.
- Penalties for piston changes as well as engine changes, specifically from the second piston change onwards.
- The riders will not be allowed to work on their bikes at refueling stations.
Clearly the rule changes are designed to stimulate more cautious riding, maybe less speed, as the riders will need to concentrate harder on navigation and better preserve their equipment.
The ASO has resurrected the Prologue, which will take place in Jeddah ahead of the rally stages start. There’ll be two loop stages (start and finish at the same location). And there’ll be a marathon stage – no details on what this will look like as yet.
Director of the Dakar Rally (and former competitor in motos and cars) David Castera summed up the new ethos of the Rally:
“Over the last few weeks, we have plunged back into our GIS software and last year’s recon notes and realised just how vast the possibilities are. The route we have prepared, a gigantic tour of the Saudi deserts, reuses none of the tracks and dunes that featured in the specials last January. The possibilities open to us have given us the opportunity to design a more technical course with more varied terrain and fewer fast sections. Along with the changes in the style of the course, we are also rolling out new features with a view to making the race even truer to the values of rally raid. Shifting the focus from raw speed to navigation are part of a holistic approach in which the creation of the Dakar Classic bridges the legends of the past and the excitement of the future. After all, adventure is a timeless pursuit, is it not?”