Stephane Peterhansel and Edouard Boulanger in the #302 Mini John Cooper Works Buggy lead the 2021 Dakar rally with seven stages down and five to go in the event. Their X-raid teammates Carlos Sainz and Lucas Cruz in the #300 Buggy are third after stage seven. The Dakar Rally is being run in Saudi Arabia for the second consecutive year.
Peterhansel took the lead from Sainz, winner of the first stage, after stage two. He has held it since despite not winning a single stage. He finished second on stages one and two, third on stage three, second on stage four, third on stage five, second on stage six, and second again on stage seven. His second-place finish on stage seven came despite his making long stop to replace a broken wheel and then battling with a broken wishbone over the last twenty kilometers of the 453-kilometer stage, run between Hail and Sakaka. Taken together, stage seven and stage eight, to be run on Monday between Sakaka and Neom, make up the rally’s marathon leg, on which drivers have to do their own repairs without assistance from their crews. As such, the drivers will have to repair the broken wishbone. Drivers from other cars can help them.
Peterhansel’s closest competitor is Toyota’s Nasser Al-Attiyah, running with his co-driver Mattheiu Baumel. They have won three stages. Sainz and Cruz are running third despite substantial setbacks beginning on stage three. They recovered to win stage six, and were third on stage seven.
The best of the six X-raid team Mini JCW Rally runners after stage seven is the sixth-place team of Vladimir Vasilyev and Dmitro Tsyro in car #317.
The 2021 Dakar concludes on January 15, with the final stage running from Yanbu to Jeddah, where the event began on January 2. Information on competitors and the route, along with videos and news of the rally’s progress, is posted on the Dakar website. Half-hour summaries are broadcast daily on the NBC Sports Network.—Brian Morgan
[Photos courtesy X-raid.]