The most recognisable faces in rally-raid have arrived in Spain for round one of the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country-Rallies. As well as featuring Dakar champions, Rally Andalucia will also showcase racing talent taking on completely new challenges.
Adding to the excitement in the Rally Andalucia bivouac is today’s announcement from Dakar organisers ASO. It has been revealed that the route of the 2022 Dakar Rally will bring the world’s best off-road racers back to Saudi Arabia for a third time. Starting in Ha’il on January 2 and finishing in Jeddah on January 14, the 44th edition of the Dakar promises to be a non-stop thrill ride over Saudi Arabian dunes from the first kilometre until the last.
Returning to Spain this week to defend his Rally Andalucia title is three-time Dakar winner Nasser Al-Attiyah. The Qatari ace and his French co-driver Mathieu Baumel scored podium finishes on all four stages last year in Spain The pair are targeting a repeat performance in their Toyota Hilux this time around.
“We have lots of competitors here and we will have to be at our best to defend our title.” – Nasser Al-Attiyah
Carlos Sainz had to settle for a runners-up finish in his native Spain at the 2020 Rally Andalucia, now he's back and aiming to put the record straight. Sainz is also a three-time Dakar winner with his latest success coming last year alongside long-time co-driver and fellow Spaniard Lucas Cruz.
“This rally is an important part of my preparations for next year’s Dakar.” – Carlos Sainz
Also behind the wheel of a MINI John Cooper Works Rally in Andalucia will be Laia Sanz. The top placed female biker at the last 11 editions of the Dakar will race her first ever rally-raid in a car this week. Sanz will have plenty of support as she embarks on a new chapter of her racing career. She is once again a team-mate of her Extreme E partner Sainz and reading the roadbook will be her compatriot Dani Oliveras.
“I’m so happy to be racing a MINI in Andalucia, it’s a great opportunity to learn in a competitive vehicle.” – Laia Sanz
Another driver who will tackle their first rally-raid in a car is Mattias Ekström. The former DTM and WRX champion rode his first Dakar Rally earlier this year in a Yamaha YXZ1000R side-by-side machine. Now Ekström has switched to a MINI John Cooper Works Buggy and will race alongside fellow Swede Emil Bergkvist in Spain.
“It will make the team boss happy if we can keep the car in one piece.” – Mattias Ekström
The Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team return to Andalucia after securing a podium finish in the side-by-side contest at last year’s rally. It will be the first time that the team have entered four drivers into a race. Hopes are high for impressive results after the team broke all kinds of records at the Dakar in Saudi Arabia.
The four crews at the controls of the Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team’s custom built OT3 machine at this week’s Rally Andalucia are; Seth Quintero (USA) / Dennis Zenz (GER), Cristina Gutiérrez (ESP) / Francois Cazalet (FRA), Mitch Guthrie Jr. (USA) / Ola Floene (NOR) plus new additions Guillaume de Mevius (BEL) / Tom Colsoul (BEL).
“There have been crazy improvements made to the car, it’s so much faster than it was last year!” – Mitch Guthrie Jr.
Rally Andalucia begins with a prologue stage on Wednesday, May 12, then comes 1,000 kilometres of timed special stages spread over four days. The fourth and final stage takes place on Sunday, May 16. Rally Andalucia is round one of the seven round 2021 FIA World Cup for Cross-Country-Rallies.
Source: Red Bull Desert Wings