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· South Racing Can-Ams claim top six places on Saudi Arabian classic

· Second and third overall for Austin Jones and Aron Domzala

JEDDAH (SAUDI ARABIA): The South Racing Can-Am Team controlled the Dakar Rally from start-to-finish with Chilean driver Francisco ‘Chaleco’ Lopez claiming victory in the SSV T4 category and South Racing Can-Am Maverick X3s filling the top six positions and eight places inside the top 10 with all 12 cars reaching the finish in Jeddah.

Lopez and fellow Chilean navigator Juan Pablo Latrach led from the second stage to the start of day six and then slipped to third place in the Copec-supported Can-Am after an accident on a sand dune. But the 2019 category winner won four of the six special stages that took place after the rest day in Ha’il and hit the front again on day nine. The Chilean former enduro rider won half of the 12 specials on his way to a winning margin of 17min 23sec.

A triumphant Lopez said: “This year was very difficult for preparation due to the big problems with COVID all over the world. But I’m very happy for my sponsors, for my country and for my co-pilot Juan Pablo. Last year I finished on the podium but the win was not possible, but this year I am very happy with the win. It's perfect. I think the difference was the navigation. It was a long, long race and a difficult race. With all the stones, the navigation and the sand, it was very complicated. It’s my best victory and I’m very happy.”

Young American Austin Jones and his Brazilian co-driver Gustavo Gugelmin led the event after stage one in their Monster Energy Can-Am and were third at the rest day. The Arizona-based racer snatched the outright lead on day eight and then held second place for the remainder of the race to confirm the runner-up spot.

The Polish duo of Aron Domżala and navigator Maciej Marton finished third overall in the second of four Monster Energy-backed Can-Ams. Domżala led the T4 section at the rest day after a stage win and a third fastest time, but a drive shaft issue and tyre problems thwarted his progress during the second half of the rally and, despite leading after day seven, he slipped to third place over the last five days – a position he held to the finish.

South Racing ran two Can-Ams under the Polish Energylandia Rally Team banner for the Polish drivers, Michal and Marek Goczal. Michal and his co-driver Szymon Gospodarczyk were fifth at the rest day and a couple of top three fastest times and several consistent stage performances pushed the Poles up to fourth place at the finish. Brother Marek and navigator Rafal Marton came home in eighth overall.

Reinaldo Varela drove the third of the Monster Energy cars with co-driver Maykel Justo reading the road books. The experienced Brazilian was sixth at the halfway point after minor time delays on the opening stages, but he enjoyed a much stronger second half of the rally and two third fastest times and a stage win on the last day catapulted Varela into fifth overall.

Dutchman Kees Koolen was one of the revelations of the second half of the rally in his South Racing Can-Am with navigator Jürgen van der Goorbergh. The businessman and veteran of several Dakars in trucks and on bikes and quads held 11 at the rest day but four top 10 stage times lifted the Dutchman to seventh on day nine and he reached the finish in Jeddah in sixth overall.

Khalifa Al-Attiyah and navigator Paulo Ceci won the last stage before the rest day after problems at the start of the race. But a consistent run through the remaining six days enabled the Qatari to consolidate his positions inside the top 10 and he reached the finish ramp in ninth place.

Spaniards Gerard Farrés and Armand Monleón crewed the fourth of the Monster Energy-backed Can-Ams. After losing time during the first week with fuel issues, Farrés was classified in 15th overall at the rest day, but a fifth and a second fastest time pushed him up to 11th on day 11, a position he held to the finish.

The Spanish crew of Fernando Alvarez and Antonio Gimeno Garcia set four top 10 stage times during the course of the Dakar in their Conarpesa-backed South Racing Can-Am and were consistently running just outside the top 10 of the 44 entrants in the SSV T4 category. Alvarez reached Jeddah in 13th overall.

Lourenço Rosa and Joaquim Dias had been running as high as 10th overall at the rest day and three eighth fastest times stood the Portuguese duo in good stead. They overcame time delays on stages nine and 11 to reach the finish in 14th overall.

Saudi driver Saeed Al-Mouri was taking part in the Dakar with support from the Leadership Development Institute to develop motor sport within Saudi Arabia through his backing from the Ministry of Education. He and Uruguay’s Sergio Lafuente set two 12th fastest times on their way to a finish in 22nd overall.

South Racing Can-Am Team’s Scott Abraham said: “This was a phenomenal race for the team. The 12 South Racing-built Can-Ams all came to the finish line without any major problems. Chaleco Lopez has won his second Dakar in the SSV category. It was a superb race between him and the Monster Energy Can-Ams of Austin Jones and Aron Domzala. It was one of the closest fought categories with the competition super tight from day-to-day.

“The Can-Am Maverick, once again, showed it’s the world’s leading SSV or side-by-side vehicle by winning Dakar for the fourth successive year and Can-Am locking out 27 of the first 29 positions and the top 10 overall.”

Support for the Monster Energy Can-Am Team came from Method Wheels, Tensor Tires, Motul, , Bell, Lazer and OMP.

2021 Dakar Rally – SSV T4 final positions:

1. Francisco Lopez (CHI)/Juan Pablo Latrach (CHI) South Racing Can-Am Maverick X3 53hrs 41min 02sec

2. Austin Jones (USA)/Gustavo Gugelmin (BRA) Monster Energy Can-Am Maverick X3 53hrs 58min 25sec

3. Aron Domzala (POL)/Maciej Marton (POL) Monster Energy Can-Am Maverick X3 54hrs 32min 55sec

4. Michal Goczal )POL)/Szymon Gospodarczk (POL) Energylandia Can-Am Maverick X3 54hrs 55min 00sec

5. Reinaldo Varela (BRA)/Maykel Justo (BRA) Monster Energy Can-Am Maverick X3 55hrs 08min 07sec

6. Kees Koolen (NLD)/Jurgen van den Goorbergh (NLD) South Racing Can-Am Maverick X3 57hrs 31min 49sec

7. Jose Antonio Lopez (ESP)/Diego Ortego Gil (ESP) Can-Am Maverick X3 57hrs 39min 26sec

8. Marek Goczal )POL)/Rafal Marton (POL) Energylandia Can-Am Maverick X3 58hrs 22min 11sec

9. Khalifa Al-Attiyah (QAT)/Paolo Ceci (ITA) South Racing Can-Am Maverick X3 58hrs 23min 20sec

10. Eric Abel ((FRA)/Christian Manet (FRA) Can-Am Maverick X3 59hrs 24min 57sec

11. Gerard Farrés (ESP)/Armand Monleón (ESP) Monster Energy Can-Am Maverick X3 59hrs 27min 50sec

13. Fernando Alvarez (ESP)/Antonio Gimeno Garcia (ESP) South Racing Can-Am Maverick X3 59hrs 53min 37sec

14. Lourenço Rosa (PRT)/Joaquim Dias (PRT) South Racing Can-Am Maverick X3 60hrs 51min 13sec

22. Saeed Al-Mouri (SAU)/Sergio Lafuente (URY) South Racing Can-Am Maverick X3 67hrs 52min 55sec


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