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Dakar Rally: 2021 favorites all-wheel drive better than buggies?

All-wheel drive better than buggies?

The 43rd edition of the Dakar Rally will take place from January 3rd to 15th. There is a clear favorite this year: Nasser Al-Attiyah.

Vor 20 years ago, Jutta Kleinschmidt in her Mitsubishi Pajero was the only German to win the Dakar Rally. She now heads the commission for cross-country sports at the FIA, the world automobile association, and is working on the future of the queen of all desert rallies. In an interview with AUTO BILD MOTORSPORT, Kleinschmidt decided on the 2021 favorite question: “I would put my money on Nasser Al-Attiyah.”
On the one hand, this is due to the Katari itself. The 49-year-old is known to be extremely quick and willing to take risks. He has already won the Dakar Rally three times: 2011 for VW, 2015 for Mini and 2019 for Toyota. In 2021 he will drive a Toyota Hilux again (2.8-liter naturally aspirated V8, 385 hp).

Al-Attiyah should also have an advantage technically: In 2020, Carlos Sainz kept his nose in front in the battle of technical concepts (buggy / rear-wheel drive versus all-wheel drive) in the X-Raid all-wheel-drive mini. This year the all-wheel drive should have advantages. This is due to the fact that the route over 7646 kilometers and twelve stages is much more technical, but also slower than 2020. All-wheel drive drivers have better cards out of tight bends than cars that are only driven on the rear axle.

All-wheel drive 2021 at an advantage

Kleinschmidt, however, qualifies: “That depends on the site. If we have slow stretches that are very smooth, then the all-wheel drive has its advantages because it can accelerate out better. But as soon as it gets very bumpy, the rear-wheel drive vehicles also have a chance again when it comes to the chassis. ”Because so that the buggies can keep up with the all-wheel drive vehicles, they enjoy technical freedom: The cars are 700 kilograms lighter and have twice the size Suspension travel, higher ground clearance and can adjust the air pressure from the cockpit depending on the terrain.

Nasser Al-Attiyah

© Red Bull Content Pool

These technical advantages also resulted in the fact that the buggies were faster than the all-wheel drive, especially in terms of top speed. Last year’s winner Sainz and the other rear-wheel drive cars raced over the desert areas of Saudi Arabia at over 190 km / h. This will no longer work in 2021, not only because of the changed route. In 2021, a top speed limit of 180 km / h was introduced for safety reasons. Another point that will weaken the buggies.

But that doesn’t mean that Al-Attiyah won the Dakar Rally 2021 before it even started. “In cross-country sport, the driver and the passenger are also very important,” says Kleinschmidt. Mistakes happen quickly, technical breakdowns are always possible. 24 of the 75 cars registered are Toyotas (three different models). Not all of them are works-supported, but even within the group, Al-Attiyah has real competition with local hero Yazeed Al-Rajhi or with former Dakar winner Giniel de Villiers. Incidentally, A-Rajhi’s co-driver is the German Dirk von Zitzewitz.

Toyota and Mini face competition

In addition, X-Raid is building two different mini versions. Carlos Sainz, father of the Ferrari of the same name in Formula 1, and the 13-time Dakar record winner Stéphane Peterhansel drive the buggy version of the Mini (3.0-liter diesel, 355 hp). But Mini also has an all-wheel drive version in use, with which, for example, the Russian Vladimir Vasilyev will be competing in the Dakar Rally. He won the World Cup for Cross-Country Bajas in 2021.
Toyota and Mini will also face competition from Prodrive in 2021 – the company owned by ex-Formula 1 team boss David Richards. The Prodrive Hunter BRX T1 (3.5-liter V6, approx. 400 hp) is driven by record rally world champion Sébastien Loeb and 2014 Dakar winner Nani Roma.
A total of 75 cars from 19 manufacturers and over 25 different models will be taking part in the Dakar Rally. Including amateur drivers in series vehicles such as an Opel Grandland X or Renault Sadev Megane. There are also discarded Peugeot buggies, with which, for example, the oldest starter Jean-Pierre Strugo at 74 years of age will compete, self-build by desert rally enthusiasts such as Rebellion and Century, and a number of private drivers who stock up on vehicles at X-Raid and Toyota to have.
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