Andalucia, Sun May 16th 2021- After 1086 km of special stage, over the hills and plains of Andalusia, victory in the bike class went to Joan Barreda (Monster Energy Honda) 03’28 ahead of compatriot Lorenzo Santolino (Sherco Factory) with Honda Monster Energy’s new recruit the Chilean Pablo Quintanilla 3rd at 10’29. The quad category saw Sebastien Souday (All Tracks) win his class ahead of Vincent Padrona (Drag’on) with Toni Vingut (Visit St Antoni Ibiza) third. The much-coveted Challenge Road to Dakar prize goes to an impressive Julien Jagu (LG Racing), 11th overall at 49’49, while Enduro Cup honours were taken by Mitchel Van Den Brink (Bas Dakar Team) who wins an entry for the Rallye du Maroc.
In the cars Nasser Al-Attiyah (Nasser Racing) took the win just 0’43 in front of Carlos Sainz (Mini John Cooper Works Rally) after receiving a 2 minute penalty for cutting the course. Yazeed Al Rajhi (Toyota Hilux Overdrive) third at 13’26. The T3 class for lightweight vehicles was turned upside down when leader Guillaume de Mevius broke his gearbox on the last stage, handing victory to his Red Bull Junior Team Cristina Gutierrez. Second was Lionel Baud in his PH-Sport Zephyr with Geoffrey Moreau third (MMP RallyRaid). The T4 SSV class battle that everyone was expecting to go down to the wire failed to materialise due to gearbox problems for Khalifa Al-Attiyah (South Racing), allowing Austin Jones (Monster Energy Can-Am) to win the category. The SSV Challenge Road to Dakar prize was picked up by the Argentinian David Zille (South Racing).
Joan Barreda (Monster Energy Honda) put in a blistering performance this morning to protect his slim overall lead. Opening the road and chased down by Lorenzo Santolino he actually increased his lead over the Sherco rider by 36 seconds to win the Andalucía Rally 2021, his first victory since the Merzouga in 2018, in fine style. An important milestone for Barreda who struggled for 2 years with a troublesome wrist injury. Commented Joan: “It was really tough for a while. You look OK on the outside, nobody can see the problem you have and psychologically it is tough. I had a lot of operations on my wrist and then about a year and a half ago the fourth one worked and I was at last fully fit again which was really important for my motivation.”
A fine performance also from Lorenzo Santolino (Sherco Factory) who is once again on the podium here, one place better than last year. The Sherco rider was potentially in with a chance of pulling back the time on Barreda but a small crash right at the start and the slippery conditions put paid to the Spaniard’s hopes. Santolino: “Really happy for me and the team who are improving the bike every race. I learned a lot here and got more confidence with the navigation. Congratulations to Barreda for the win.”
Feeling more at ease with every passing day on his new bike, Pablo Quintanilla (Monster Energy Honda) finished third on terrain that on paper shouldn’t suit this pure desert racer so much. Progression underlined by his win on the final stage of the rally.
Quintanilla: “Yeah I’m very happy with my week. I like the bike and really enjoyed riding over the tracks and through the farms here. It was good to get to know my new team, all the mechanics and now I will head back to Chile, try out my bike in the desert and prepare for the rest of the season.”
In the cars Nasser Al-Attiyah (Nasser Racing) was initially credited with an overall time advantage of 02’43 over Carlos Sainz (Mini John Cooper Works Rally) but this was cut to just 0’43 after Nasser received a 2 minute penalty for, what the stewards accepted, was unintentionally course cutting. If Sainz, out of practice racing a 4×4, had been on the pace a day earlier it might well have been a different story… Nasser, commenting at the finish line: “We showed everybody we are fast and Mathieu (Baumel) did a great job. Always we try to do our best and win races.”
Behind them Yazeed Al-Rajhi (Toyota Hilux Overdrive) did well to overcome the problems encountered on the first stage to finish third.
Yazeed: “We were unlucky with our puncture but on the other hand lucky because I’m feeling much better after my big crash earlier in the year. Not 100%, but much better. Finally we did a great job and enjoyed ourselves and that’s the most important thing. Thank you to the organisers for a very nice race;”
In T3 the gearbox gremlins that afflicted Mitchell Guthrie struck his Red Bull Off Road Junior Team colleague Guillaume de Mevius today as he was heading to almost certain victory, allowing the third member of the team Cristina Gutierrez to take the win on home turf.
Cristina: “I feel a little bit sorry for the others because they had some bad luck but finally we did a good job and take the victory. I am a little bit shy but it was incredible all the people cheering me on from the side of the track. This is Spain, my country and it is really nice to win here.”
With last year’s winner Aron Domzala (Monster Energy Can-Am) crashing early in the race the T4 battle was set to rage today between Khalifa Al-Attiyah (South Racing) and Austin Jones (Monster Energy Can-Am), with the American starting with a lead of just 01’31. Unfortunately that battle failed to materialise with Jones taking an easier than expected victory. Austin: “We got ourselves together and we went for it and it paid off. I’ve got close to winning in the past but finally we get a win and it feels pretty good.”
In the open class victory goes to Martin Van Den Brink (Bas Dakar Team) 10’28 ahead of Jean Olivier Albaret (Pinch Racing) with Jean-Philippe Theuriot (Jean-Philippe Theuriot) 3rd and first car at 11’19.