Dakar champions and fresh faces ready to take on Rally Andalucia
May 11, 2021
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.
WATCH: 2022 Dakar Rally: Route, Location, Date, Everything You Need To Know, link
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.
Nasser Al-Attiyah: “We’re so happy to come back here after winning the first edition of Rally Andalucia last year. We have lots of competitors here and we will have to be at our best to defend our title. We will use all our experience to do our best to win again. This is the first time I’ve been back in the car since the Dakar so I need to find my rhythm again. In the last few days I have driven about 250 kilometres in the Toyota to get prepared for this race.”
Mathieu Baumel: “We enjoyed ourselves last year here in Andalucia so it’s great to be back. Here you find mostly fast tracks but also some very tricky sections. There are navigation challenges when you are crossing over the fields. This year there are 120 cars at the start including some of our biggest rivals so this should be a fantastic rally. Our testing has gone well, the car is set up and we’re ready for the prologue tomorrow.”
Carlos Sainz: “This rally is an important part of my preparations for next year’s Dakar. I’m still hungry to be fighting for wins at these events.”
Laia Sanz: “I’m so happy to be racing a MINI in Andalucia, it’s a great opportunity to learn in a competitive vehicle. It’s something totally different from what I have done so far, because it has nothing to do with racing a buggy in Dubai or with the Extreme E. I’m very grateful to Carlos Sainz for the help and to the sponsors who have joined me in this project.”
Mattias Ekström: “Coming to Rally Andalucia for the first time and to arrive in a big buggy is really exciting. I’ve done roughly 400 kilometres of testing so I’ve had my first taste. It’s a big difference to what I drove at the Dakar and it’s also different to my rallycross car or anything I’ve driven in circuit racing. I’m very humble for the challenge ahead and the main focus is to bring my car to the finish each day. It will make the team boss happy if we can keep the car in one piece.”
Guillaume de Mevius: “I can’t wait to get Rally Andalucia started. I know I’ll have to pace myself because the rally is four days long. Maybe that’s not too long for a rally-raid if you compare it with the Dakar, but it’s a long race compared with what I’m used to. Learning how to deal with this is something I’m looking forward to accomplishing.”
Seth Quintero: “I’m really looking forward to racing here in Andalucia again. Last year we had a little bit of a problem on the first two stages and that took us out of contention for the win. Hopefully we’ll be able to stay in the mix on all four stages this time.”
Cristina Gutiérrez: “In Andalucia I want to carry on learning about our OT3 car and building understanding with the team. Since the Dakar I have not driven the car so I need to get back my rhythm. Hopefully I can do this quickly and be competitive at this rally.”
Mitch Guthrie Jr.: “Last year in Andalucia we got a podium, this year the plan is to go for that win. Last year we knew we had what it took to win here and our car was awesome. Now there have been crazy improvements made to the car, it’s so much faster than it was last year! This year the sky is the limit and the whole team is coming in swinging.”