44th edition of the Dakar Rally gets underway in Saudi Arabia

The famous Dakar Rally has commenced for the 44th time, again being held in Saudi Arabia

From the outset of the 44th edition of the Dakar Rally, Nasser Al-Attiyah, the Qatari driver in the Toyota, showed why he is this year’s favourite. The famous race started today, Saturday, January 1, in Saudia Arabia, heading out from Jeddah to tackle a short 19km stage, which Al-Attiyah covered in a time of 10 minutes and 56 seconds.
He crossed the finish line 12 seconds ahead of Spanish driver, Carlos Sainz, in the Audi. South Africa’s Brian Baragwanath, driving for the Century Racing team, came in third place, 36 seconds down.
From day one, the Qatari wanted to mark Al-Attiyah territory. The winner of three previous editions of the Dakar, in 2011, 2015, and 2019), he recognised in the previous one that winning his fourth title in Saudi Arabia would be something “very important for him”.
Al-Attiyah saw his main rivals finish close behind, with the exception of Frenchman Stephane Peterhansel, a record 14-time Dakar winner – six times on a motorcycle, and eight in a car – who was one minute and 12 seconds off the pace.
The only driver to put the squeeze on Al-Attiyah was Carlos Sainz, his former partner at Audi, driving an innovative hybrid vehicle. Sainz came home only 12 seconds behind. In equal third spot, both with the same time of 11:32, were the South Africans, Baragwanath, and Henk Lategan, (Toyota).
Frenchman Sebastien Loeb (Bahrain Raid Xtreme), finished in fifth place, 37 seconds behind leader Al-Attiyah. He was followed home by local driver Yazeed Al Rajhi (Toyota), in 11 minutes and 43 seconds.
Nani Roma from Spain, (Bahrain Raid Xtreme), winner of the Dakar on a motorcycle in 2004, and a car in 2014, finished in seventh place, with 11 minutes and 45 seconds.
This was just the opening day of competition, without any real surprises, before the real action gets underway tomorrow, Sunday, January 2. A 334km special stage awaits the drivers, and co-drivers, starting and finishing in Ha’il. The tough arduous route, and consequently the navigation, will be the keys to achieving a good result, as reported by cadenaser.com.

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Written by

Chris King

Originally from Wales, Chris spent years on the Costa del Sol before moving to the Algarve where he is a web reporter for The Euro Weekly News covering international and Spanish national news. Got a news story you want to share? Then get in touch at [email protected]

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