The South Racing Can-Am Team has enjoyed a superb first half of the 2021 Dakar Rally. All 12 of the South Racing-entered cars are still running after six special stages with Polish driver Aron Domżala currently leading the SSV T4 category and South Racing-built cars winning the Prologue and five of the six timed tests.
As drivers and co-drivers now take some much needed rest in the north-central city of Ha’il and South Racing technicians set about preparing the Can-Am Maverick X3s for the second half of the world’s toughest off-road rally, the Germany-based team can look back on a dominant first week of racing across the most demanding terrain that the Saudi Arabian desert could throw at competitors.
Francisco Lopez and fellow Chilean navigator Juan Pablo Latrach led the SSV T4 event outright from the second stage and picked up daily victories on stages three and five in their Copec-supported Can-Am before losing over an hour following an accident over a sand dune on day six.
That delay dropped the 2019 winner down to third overall and lifted Domżala and navigator Maciej Marton into an outright lead of just 40 seconds in the first of four Monster Energy Can-Am Team cars. Domżala won the fourth stage and has never been outside the top three since the Prologue.
Speaking after the demanding fifth stage, the leading Pole said: “The last three stages were for tourists compared to that stage. It was really technical with hard dunes and tricky navigation. We’re in a great battle with Chaleco (Lopez). In the dunes he has incredible speed but there are still a lot of stages to go.”
Young American Austin Jones and his Brazilian co-driver Gustavo Gugelmin crew the second of four Monster Energy Can-Ams, built by South Racing, and Jones was the early leader of the rally after winning both the Prologue and the opening stage. He slipped to fifth overall after stage two and moved up to second overall on the sixth test after running in third for the last three days.
Brazilian Reinaldo Varela and Spaniard Gerard Farrés are taking part in the third and fourth of the Monster Energy-backed Can-Ams and hold sixth and 15th at the rest day with their respective co-drivers Maykel Justo and Armand Monleón.
Varela had been running as high as fourth overall after SS1 but navigational issues cost him valuable time, as did a minor accident. Farrés climbed as high as third overall after stage two, but the Spaniard lost two and a half hours on stage five and the second quickest time on the stage into Ha’il was the former enduro rider’s best return thus far. He was plagued by electrical and fuel issues early in the race with the latter solved in time for him to deliver a stunning sixth stage performance.
Khalifa Al-Attiyah and navigator Paulo Ceci worked together for the first time shortly before Christmas and won the second of the Ha’il Bajas. That new Qatari-Italian partnership has gone from strength to strength ever since and the Doha-based driver has recovered well from losing almost two hours on the first stage. He slipped down to 56th overall after that first special but a fourth, a ninth, a second and a fastest time on stage six have lifted the Qatari into ninth place at the rest day.
The Portuguese crew of Lourenço Rosa and Joaquim Dias crew the sixth of the South Racing Can-Am Team T4s. They set four top 10 stage times on the driver’s first Dakar and have climbed into contention for a top 10 finish. Rosa currently holds 10th place.
Dutchman Kees Koolen came into the Dakar on the back of sealing the FIA T4 world title before Christmas, but he and fellow countryman Jürgen van der Goorbergh have yet to challenge the front-runners at the Dakar. Koolen’s best stage performance came with the sixth quickest time on SS3 and he reached Ha’il in 11th position.
Spaniards, Fernando Alvarez and Antonio Gimeno Garcia, have delivered consistent results each day in their Conarpesa-backed Can-Am. They climbed to 13th overall after day three and reached the rest day in a similar position in the rankings.
Local driver Saeed Al-Mouri teamed up with Uruguay’s Sergio Lafuente and has been running mid-way through the 44-car field since the start of the event in Jeddah on January 2nd. He holds 23rd overall in a car supported by the Leadership Development Institute to develop motor sport within Saudi Arabia through his backing from the Ministry of Education.
South Racing is also running two Can-Ams under the Polish Energylandia Rally Team banner for driving brothers Marek and Michal Goczal. Michal and his co-driver Szymon Gospodarczyk have faired the better of the two. They set four top five stage times and hold fifth at the rest day. Brother Marek and navigator Rafal Marton are classified in 12th overall.
South Racing Can-Am Team’s Scott Abraham said: “It’s great to have all the cars at rest day in very strong positions. It has been a crazy fight all through the SSV category. There is still a long way to go with six stages, plus a Marathon day, and this year’s Dakar will definitely not be decided up until we hopefully reach the podium in Jeddah.”
The Dakar Rally resumes on Sunday with a selective section from Ha’il to Sakaka, as the route winds its way through the cooler northern deserts during the second week, taking in additional night halts in Neom, Al-Ula and Yanbu before the finish in Jeddah next Friday.
2021 Dakar Rally – SSV T4 positions in Ha’il:
- Aron Domzala (POL)/Maciej Marton (POL) Monster Energy Can-Am Maverick X3 27hrs 04min 29sec
- Austin Jones (USA)/Gustavo Gugelmin (BRA) Monster Energy Can-Am Maverick X3 27hrs 05min 09sec
- Francisco Lopez (CHI)/Juan Pablo Latrach (CHI) South Racing Can-Am Maverick X3 27hrs 40min 20sec
- Sergei Kariakin (RUS)/Anton Vlasiuk (RUS) Can-Am Maverick X3 27hrs 41min 06sec
- Michal Goczal )POL)/Szymon Gospodarczk (POL) Energylandia Can-Am Maverick X3 27hrs 41min 19sec
- Reinaldo Varela (BRA)/Maykel Justo (BRA) Monster Energy Can-Am Maverick X3 28hrs 29min 40sec
- Saleh Al-Saif (SAU)/Oriol Vidal (ESP) Can-Am Maverick X3 28hrs 34min 37sec
- Jose Antonio Lopez (ESP)/Diego Ortego Gil (ESP) Can-Am Maverick X3 28hrs 43min 52sec
- Khalifa Al-Attiyah (QAT)/Paolo Ceci (ITA) South Racing Can-Am Maverick X3 29hrs 24 min 23sec
- Lourenço Rosa (PRT)/Joaquim Dias (PRT) South Racing Can-Am Maverick X3 29hrs 53min 55sec
- Kees Koolen (NLD)/Jurgen van den Goorbergh (NLD) South Racing Can-Am Maverick X3 29hrs 53min 57sec
- Marek Goczal )POL)/Rafal Marton (POL) Energylandia Can-Am Maverick X3 29hrs 54min 44sec
- Fernando Alvarez (ESP)/Antonio Gimeno Garcia (ESP) South Racing Can-Am Maverick X3 30hrs 09min 29sec
- Gerard Farrés (ESP)/Armand Monleón (ESP) Monster Energy Can-Am Maverick X3 30hrs 17min 06sec
- Saeed Al-Mouri (SAU)/Sergio Lafuente (URY) South Racing Can-Am Maverick X3 34hrs 09min 04sec