In the bikes victory on the first leg of the Andalucía Rally 2021 went to the man with the No 1 plate on his bike, Sherco Factory rider Lorenzo Santolino. Just 22 seconds behind him was fellow Spaniard Joan Barreda (Monster Energy Honda) with the German Sebastian Bühler (Hero Motorsports) third at 01’00. Overall Joan Barreda takes the lead ahead of Santolino (at 00’22) and Bühler (at 00’42). In the quads, with Vincent Padrona (Yamaha Raptor 700) penalised 3 minutes, fellow Frenchman Sebastien Souday (All Tracks) takes the stage and leads the overall. In the cars victory on the stage went to the man who chose to start third this morning Nasser Al-Attiyah (Nasser Racing) 1’25 ahead of Vaidotas Zala (Mini John Cooper Works Rally) with Carlos Sainz (Mini John Cooper Works Rally) third at 2’32. In T3 the spoils went to Seth Quintero (Red Bull Off Road Junior Team) ahead of teammate Cristina Gutierrez with Lionel Baud (PH-Sport Zephyr) third, while in T4 the honours went to Nasser’s brother Khalifa.
Sherco Factory Rallye rider Lorenzo Santolino’s day could have turned out very differently, the winner of the first leg arriving at the bivouac with a huge hole in his rear tyre. Commented the Spaniard: “I noticed the tyre was damaged at the end of the first special so after that I had to take it a bit easier to make sure I got the bike to the finish. But apart from that no problems. I felt happy on the bike and managed to keep a good pace. There wasn’t too much dust but in places the light made it a bit tricky. Tomorrow obviously I will open but that isn’t a problem for me, just good practice.”
First ‘privateer’ Mathieu Doveze (Nomade Racing) is also having a good start to the rally, finishing the first leg in 8th place. Commented the Frenchman: “I’m a little surprised to be where I am. For sure it is strange to see the names of the riders just ahead of me but I’m trying not to look at that, just concentrate on my race. Last year I raced here in the Enduro Cup and now on a rally bike and it is a very different experience.” Further down the field, but not by much (15th on the day) is the best placed ‘Junior’ entrant, Frenchman Jean-Loup Lepan, just 22 years old. Inspired by his father’s Dakar tales, according to Lepan Senior it was the light in his eyes when he talked about his exploits that made his son want to race rally-raid. A wise head on young shoulders, Jean-Loup explained: “I’m not looking at the results, I’m just here to enjoy myself and share the experience with my dad. There’s a really good atmosphere here in the Nomade Racing team and its great to chat with all the other competitors.”
In the Enduro Cup, Dakar truck racer Mitchel Van Den Brink (Bas Dakar Team) wins the day ahead of his friend and neighbour Wiljan Van Wikeselaar (Bas Dakar Team) who leads overall. For the quads in the Enduro Cup it was Axel Dutrie (Drag’on) who was fastest, but Dani Vila (Joyride Racing Services) who leads overall.
Starting third on the road this morning Nasser Al-Attiyah’s (Nasser Racing) choice worked out just as he had hoped. With Carlos Sainz (Mini John Cooper Works Rally) losing time behind Yazeed Al-Rahji (Toyota Hilux Overdrive), the Qatari, charged to victory: “I’m quite happy to lead the Andalucía Rally. We did a good job and the performance of the car was very good. Not an easy stage, very tricky and I was happy to finish. Tomorrow we open the road and we try and do our best. I don’t know if it will be good or bad for us...” Also happy with his day was Vaidotas Zala (Mini John Cooper Works Rally) second at 01’25. “I think we did a good result. We were lucky because we started behind Nasser and Carlos and I think they got stuck behind Yazeed. Further on we tried to keep it a bit safer because some places were not so easy to see. Not too worried about my position on the road tomorrow because it is slippery anyway.”
Not so happy was ‘El Matador’ Carlos Sainz (Mini John Cooper Works Rally – 3rd at 2’05) struggling to come to terms with a 4 wheels drive after not having driven one since 2011! “We decided to come with the 4X4 to give us a chance to learn a little bit about the car. With the buggy here in any case we know from last year that it is imposible to do anything. At the beginning today it was OK then I passed Yazeed to open on the second part. My problem is not my position on the road, my problem is I need to get confidence to drive the car. At the moment I’m not driving the way I like. We are looking at different settings but we don’t know if they will work or not.”
In T3 the Red Bull Off Road Junior team put in a strong performance with Seth Quintero coming out on top. “We’re doing well. We started in 7th position, second T3 off the line and just ran our own pace. It was nice to have the 3 minute gap and not to be in the dust. Tomorrow we’ll be first T3 away and so we should have an even clearer run.”
In T4, with last year’s winner Aron Domzala (Monster Energy Can-Am) crashing, victory went to another fast Al-Attiyah, brother of Nasser, Khalifa, also aboard a South Racing Can-Am: “I enjoyed it a lot today. An interesting stage and I’m very happy to be leading my category.” Added a proud Nasser “I work a lot with him and he has a very good co-driver with Xavier (Panseri) who has a lot of experience and we are are in a good way. Our target is to prepare him for the next Dakar.”
• LEG 2 : Cordóba, here go!
Liaison : 112 km / SS : 339 km / Total : 451 km / Chrono : 75 %
David Castera: “This is the special that takes the competitors the furthest from the bivouac, all the way to the Province of Cordoba. Like the previous one it is in two parts, but this time the pace on each one is different. The competitors will start the first special in the hills. It will be more technical, especially at the start. They will discover this new section that we have managed to integrate into the 2021 route… they will see even more on stage 4. The second section is faster, sometimes very fast. A nice special. There’s a real difference between the two sections.”
Source: Andalucia Rally press release