Dakar contenders take stock on rest day

Dakar contenders take stock on rest day

Off Road

Dakar contenders take stock on rest day

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Quads: Cavigliasso in the lead but not in the clear

Ignacio Casale’s departure to the truck category has left a power vacuum and encouraged a host of contenders eager to fill it. One man, Nicolas Cavigliasso, stands out from the rest. The Argentinian, who sat out the 2020 edition after claiming the 2019 Dakar with nine stage wins, got back to his winning ways in stage 3 and has since finished every single stage on the podium, even when faced with the challenge of opening the way. Yet it was Alexandre Giroud who dominated the start of the race, winning the prologue and the first stage before running out of steam a bit. Following a series of mechanicals, navigation errors and a herd of sheep in his way, the Frenchman is sitting in third place overall, about 45 minutes behind Cavigliasso, with another Argentinian, Manuel Andujar, sandwiched in between.

Andujar came in fifth in 2019 and went one better last year, when a stroke of bad luck dashed his hopes of finishing on the podium. Just over half an hour behind his countryman in the general standings, Andujar remains a real threat for the title, much like Giovanni Enrico, fourth at under an hour back.

However, Pablo Copetti and the next few riders in the classification face a much bleaker picture. The Argentinian-American won the second stage, but a mechanical during the fourth special sent him crashing down the general standings, where he now sits in fourth place almost 2h30m back.

Lightweight vehicles

The competition is fierce in this category, as proved by the list of stage winners, which features six different victors in seven specials (including the prologue). “Chaleco” Lopez is the only former champion on that list and the only driver to score a brace so far. After leading the rally for four days, a mechanical forced the Chilean to surrender the lead to Aron Domzala, who now holds a slender margin of 4m46s over Austin Jones. While Can-Am is firmly in command of the race, Team Red Bull’s OT3s have twice made history in the opening week: first with Cristina Gutierrez — the first woman to win a Dakar special since Jutta Kleinschmidt in 2005 — and then with America’s Seth Quintero, who became the youngest stage winner in the history of the rally yesterday at the age of 18. The Californian is now third overall.

Trucks: Karginov messes up, Sotnikov takes over

Andrey Karginov went from ruling the 2020 Dakar with an iron fist to probably losing the 2021 edition on day one. The Russian’s crew lost over an hour and a half to a mechanical problem in the first stage, leaving him needing a miracle to retain his title. However, his Kamaz team showed the depth of its roster as Dmitry Sotnikov rose to the occasion and took over from teammate Karginov. Sotnikov has finished in the top 2 in every single stage in a display of consistency that has put him half an hour clear of the rest of the field at the top of the general standings.

Following the withdrawal of Siarhei Viazovich, who finished third last year, Karginov will be trying to stage an epic comeback in week 2 while Ayrat Mardeev seeks to follow up on his first stage win since 2018 on the road to Ha’il, and Anton Shibalov attempts to build on his four podium finishes in six stages and second place overall.

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