2021 Dakar route announced featuring 12 stages in Saudi Arabia

2021 Dakar Rally route
Photo by Franck Fife/AFP via Getty Images

The 2021 route for the Dakar Rally has been announced and will feature 12 stages from Jan. 3-15.

But first, the Dakar will begin with a prologue stage on Jan. 2 that determines starting positions for Stage 1. The kickoff will take competitors about 19 miles (30 kilometers) outside of King Abdullah Stadium were multiple sandy courses give drivers and riders a chance to finesse their way into a strong starting position.

Stage 1 will run from Jeddah to Bisha. This stage will be 386 miles that include some navigational hazards imposed by numerous intersections.

The first set of dunes will occur during the 426-mile Stage 2 that runs from Bisha to Wadi Ad-Dawasir.

The longest segment will be Stage 4. Run on Jan. 6, this 505-mile stage will feature high speed, winding roads.

After six stages, competitors get a rest day on Jan. 9 before launching into a two-day marathon in Stages 7 and 8. Stage 8 brings the competitors across the northern route as they head back toward the Red Sea, where the remainder of the rally will be run.

The 2021 Dakar Rally route will conclude with Stage 12 on Jan. 15 where the rally began: In Jeddah.

Commenting on the Saudi Arabia Dakar Rally route, seven-time winner Stephane Peterhansel said, “It was one nice surprise after another. What we saw in the race was even more beautiful than we could imagine. Being at risk of losing fifteen minutes at any time only makes the race more exciting.” Peterhansel finished third last year.

“It was a nice experience. The terrain was outstanding, like in Africa,” said last year’s winner, Carlos Sainz. “I’ve got great memories of my victory. Saudi Arabia surprised me, and I think it’ll be even more well-rounded this year. At any rate, the pressure is getting higher and higher.”

With a time of 40 hours, two minutes and 36 seconds, American rider Ricky Brabec won last year’s bike division over Chile’s Pablo Quintanilla. “My first experience was huge,” Brabec said. “It was like the desert back home! It’s insane. Rocky terrain, dry riverbeds and open deserts are what I love, so I hope we’ll be visiting them again.”

MORE: Carlos Sainz, Ricky Brabec win 2020 Dakar Rally

Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and Formula One embrace the United States

Verstappen Perez United States
Jared C. Tilton / Getty Images

Last week, Red Bull Racing revealed their new car, the RB19, and a new relationship with US-based Ford Motors in a press event in New York City complete with drivers Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and Team Principle Christian Horner. They are the only Formula 1 team to launch in the United States, but even that small move of the needle reflects a major shift in the attitude of both F1’s management and their teams – and the extent to which the American audience has fully embraced the sport.

“It’s something fantastic and unique, for the sport to be able to break it into the U.S,” Perez told NBC Sports. “The market is huge and it’s a huge opportunity for everyone involved, for the drivers, for the team. It’s always a huge market.”

Verstappen Perez United States
Sergio Perez finished fourth in the Unites States Grand Prix, but he was first with the fans.  – Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

In 2023, Formula 1 will race three times in the United States and five times in North America. The Circuit of the Americas will host their 11th consecutive race in October before heading south to Mexico City. Miami returns for a second time in May on a temporary street course around the Hard Rock cafe and the third addition is in downtown Las Vegas in November.

With the Canadian Grand Prix on the schedule for June and the Brazilian Grand Prix in November, American fans are now in the ballpark of Europeans, who have eight events on the continent and one in England.

In 2022, Verstappen won every race in North America. He was kept from sweeping the hemisphere only by George Russell, who won in Brazil. That fact is less remarkable when one considers that Verstappen won 15 times in the season – nearly two-thirds of the races on the schedule.

By the time Formula arrived in Austin for Round 20 of 23, Verstappen had already wrapped up his second consecutive championship.

“Sometimes it can be hard to replicate the season, but I think it’s the same as with the car, right? You always try to improve it,” Verstappen told NBC Sports. “And I always look at the little details that even when you have had a good race, you could have done better. And then of course you also learn from the bad races. So we always try to look for these little improvements and general experience you gain year after year.

“You try to do better, but of course it also depends a lot on the package you have.”

Verstappen Perez United States
Max Verstappen United States Grand Prix win was one of 15 for the drivers and 17 for Red Bull.
(Gongora / NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Now Verstappen’s thoughts will inevitably turn to establishing a dynasty – and America will again play a pivotal role.

“I just enjoy what I’m doing,” Verstappen said.  “After the years in Formula One, when you have to be on top of your game and you gain a lot on your experience – in that sense nothing really can get to you anymore. Every year you just try to do the best you can. But a lot depends on the material around you. It’s always a bit of a guess. Start the season as fit as you can be and be well prepared. But if you don’t have the car, you’re not going to win the championship.”

Perez added two wins to Red Bull’s total, at Monaco and the Marina Bay Street course. With two of the US 2023 races on street courses, Perez hopes to close the gap on Verstappen and potentially be his principle rival for the championship.

“The strategy is clear; it is to maximize the potential of the car – and we believe we have a good car, but how good?,” Perez said “We don’t know what the competition is doing. We just give our best in building this car and we hope that it’s good enough to get us to win races.

“I think we have to work together as a team. At the same time. We both want to win the championship. It’s just having good compromise. The competition will be really strong out there, so we really need everything we possibly can get from each other.”

Formula One returns to the United States for Round 6 and the Miami Grand Prix on May 7.