The fourth stage of the rally-marathon Dakar 2021 in Saudi Arabia was held on the route Wadi Ad-Dawasir - Riyadh on Wednesday, January 6.
Yesterday, after a quarter of the Dakar, the truck category faced with further losses. Now there are 38 crews out of 44 in the general classification. Fast and not the easiest (and the legendary race has only such ones) stage almost brought the Japanese team out of the number of contestants on Hino. Teruhito Sugawara and his companions on one of the dunes had an accident, making a rollout on the roof. Fortunately, none of the athletes was injured, and provided technical assistance allowed them to continue driving. Night repairs at the bivouac - and the truck went to the next start.
Having reached the southern borders of the route at the 43rd Dakar edition, the race contestants headed for the north-east of Saudi Arabia. The way from Wadi Ad-Dawasir to the capital of the country Riyadh became the longest this year - 813 km.
The program of the fourth competition day included very fast areas on almost entire 337-km route. The landscape of the stage consisted of a sandy cover with gravel areas, a six-kilometer stretch in a canyon, intersection of dried-up river beds and certainly dunes of various configurations with dangerous descents. And right before the finish line, the rally caravan was awaited by tracks, swept by strong winds and a mountain valley with complicated navigation. Signal from the organizers: crews, attention to the course!
Mixed at the starting list together with cars, truck crews from the group, leading in the general standings, literally flew towards the finish line. The first waypoint was taken by Andrey Karginov from KAMAZ-master team, and top-10 drivers fit in a minute at the 43-km mark. Further was even more. Five crews at once placed seven seconds apart, and Karginov, Siarhei Viazovich and Aliaksei Vishneuski covered 80 km with the same time! The five-time Dakar champion Eduard Nikolaev, who this year assists the head of the Russian team, Vladimir Chagin, noted that he had never seen anything like this in his career. It should be added that the average speed of passing the first quarter of the distance was about 120 kmh, while for the truck category the maximum limit was around 140 kmh.
Sharp and uncompromising struggle in seconds and tough environmental conditions put serious pressure on vehicles. After all, no matter how experienced the driver, navigator and mechanic are, they depend on reliability of their sports truck. Viazovich's MAZ could not stand the highest racing pace - the Belarusian crew, which was going in front with a two-minute advantage from their rivals, stopped at 100 km, and in the news column on the Dakar website there was a message about a technical problem, which will require them from one to two hours to fix. A serious blow to the competition prospects of the team leader from Minsk, who was taking second place in the general classification and won the prologue and the third stage of the rally. Just yesterday, after the finish, the driver complained about the abnorrmal sound from the turbocharger and loss of the engine power. However, the reasons for the breakdown will be known later.
Karginov, who continued his powerful driving along the track, already at the 125 km brought his advantage over the rivals to more than a minute and kept the first result almost to the finish line. 70 km before the end of the special stage, the first winner of the Dakar on the Arabian Peninsula strengthened his leadership, almost 2 minutes ahead of Vishneuski. The final adjustments to the stage rankings were made by the mountain valley, where the crew made a mistake in navigation and lost the time reserve, showing the second result and having a 10-second lag behind Dmitry Sotnikov.
Andrey Karginov, pilot of crew No 500: "A good special stage, we drove fast. At first the dunes were fast with a sharp descent, it was important to choose the right speed. Then the slower L1 and L2 began, but there were very few of them. The day turned out difficult in navigation, at the end we faced with problems and lost time. Everything is in order with our truck. We saw Viazovich at a standstill, his crew was running around the truck."
Throughout the entire stage the crew No 507 was going behind, and faultless driving and navigation in the final segment allowed Sotnikov to catch up with a gap of three and a half minutes and win his third special stage at the 2021 race and set a personal record for victories in one Dakar. The winner's time was 2 hours 58 minutes 47 seconds.
Ruslan Akhmadeev, navigator of crew No 507: “The organizers promised a fast special stage. The dune section was not very large - only 23 km. We can say that today was a navigation day: fast tracks, river beds and many road junctions. At the 80 km we went to the wrong way, although the binding seemed to be correct. We made a slight mistake in the course, but we got out to the track along impassibility. We lost one and a half or two minutes. We punctured a wheel at about 100 km, drove to the finish line on pumping. We kept a good pace, overtook off-road cars and bikes. At the end there was a very complicated track between canyons and mountains, we managed to find the right way and successfully finish without breakdowns. "
As yesterday, in the final classification the gaps between the crews were minimal. Almost the entire top ten placed in a 10-minute slot. The third result at the special stage was shown by A. Vishneuski (+14 seconds). The Czech Martin Macik finished just in eight seconds. Two more KAMAZ-master crews under the management of Anton Shibalov (+3 minutes 56 seconds) and Airat Mardeev (+6 minutes 15 seconds) became the fifth and sixth, respectively.