Sainz: 2021 Dakar more gymkhana than rally raid

The transition to electronic maps to read from on this year's Dakar Rally has caught out some high-profile crews


Carlos Sainz says that this year’s Dakar Rally is ‘more like gymkhana than a rally raid’ after suffering navigational problems in two of the last three stages.

The X-raid Mini JCW driver, who is the defending winner of the event, lost half an hour on stage three after getting lost, and then lost another 30 minutes at the start of the fifth stage on Thursday.

It has meant that his chances of retaining his Dakar title are almost over with the deficit to team-mate and rally leader Stéphane Peterhansel now standing at 48 minutes in the overall classification.

“For me, I am a bit demoralized, a bit upset,” Sainz told reporters at the end of the Riyadh-Al Qaisumah stage.

“The rally resembles more a gymkhana than a rally raid. This is my 14th Dakar appearance and I have never lost half an hour on two days before.

“I’ve never seen everybody lost; this is not the Dakar.”

Having got lost on Tuesday, Sainz appeared bemused when asked what had happened, with co-driver Lucas Cruz admitting that he believed the pair were at another waypoint.

Sainz also said on his social media that he and Cruz were struggling to get to grips with the bespoke new electronic ‘tablet’ roadbook that was trialed last year and how now permanently replaced its paper counterpart for 2021.

Crews receive the roadbook just 15 minutes before the start of each day’s stage, to add an extra navigational challenge during the event.

Earlier in the week, Mathieu Baumel, co-driver for Toyota Gazoo Racing’s Nasser Al-Attiyah, described to France Télévisions that some crews had been experiencing teething troubles with the electronic roadbook.

“You have to be wide awake and anticipate the announcement of the notes a lot,” Baumel explained.
“The time seems very long between the push on the remote control and the change of notes. I am not yet fully up to speed with it.”

Al-Attiyah himself admitted to getting lost twice during the stage, which cost the three-time Dakar winner “around eight or nine minutes”.