Route, plans and measures against coronavirus

In the past few weeks the alarm had gone off. It was pointed out that the organization of Dakar had not yet been able to develop a tour for the 2021 edition due to the coronavirus and the impossibility of traveling to Saudi Arabia. Even Carlos Sainz, three-time Dakar champion, expressed his concern to MD: “I know they have not done anything, they are waiting for travel” But The director of the world’s toughest test, David Castera, attended MD on Monday to send a message of reassurance, ensuring that they already have two route plans and that “At the moment the Dakar 2021 is not in a difficult situation at the organizational level”.

The 2021 itinerary: “100% new”

“Now it is very easy to make a plot with Google Earth, with all the satellite images and with all the systems we have. I have already made a ‘Plan A’ and a ‘Plan B’ of travel and now we are just waiting to go on the ground. Things change from day to day, I asked that everything stop, that we work on the hypothesis that we could go there in September, ”he said in a telephone conversation, confined to his home in Andorra.

David Castera, Dakar director, acknowledging the past Dakar

“We have the plan to make the first outing in September but we have no complications. People talk that we have nothing, but we already have the entire route and all the kilometers. I have put together the security plan, the gasoline refueling plan and everything. We are fine. It is not the best situation, but it is under control and we are on the right track, “he added.

In this sense, he stressed that despite not having been able to carry out the reconnaissance tasks on the ground as they should have started in April by the Covid-19, “The route of 2021 will be 100% new, or at least 95”. “It is a very large country and it is very easy to do something else. There are cities that are going to be repeated for sure, but the route is not, the idea is to have something totally new, “he pointed out, stressing that” above all, the idea is to do the second week with less speed (more navigation) and we have already done those corrections”.

Carlos Sainz, winner of the Dakar 2020
Carlos Sainz, winner of the Dakar 2020
A motard sped past one of the peculiar stone monoliths in the Saudi desert.
A motard sped past one of the peculiar stone monoliths in the Saudi desert.

September, key date

The French made it clear that they have not opted for what would have been easier in these pandemic circumstances, to repeat much of the 2020 itinerary. Now, they hope that in September they can begin the recognition tasks to formalize the work already done and create the definitive roadbook.. “First a car will come out, and three days apart another one will come out, and then another to do the roadbook. If we are almost sure, two will be enough. The first one will verify that everything we have done through satellite can be done and will send corrections to the second car, which is the one that will do the roadbook ”, he explained, noting that in this work on the ground only the planned itinerary should vary by “2 or 3% maximum”.

“Then the gasoline, timing, television, airplane and helicopter plan can be finished. All that we already have advanced. We work well with Saudi Arabia, with its people, “he added, noting that luckily they have a whole lot of previous work done last year, in their first year in Saudi Arabia.

“If it was the first year in Arabia we would be very bad. But now I know the country and I have teams that last year did many more things, we did a lot of recognition and now we have many possibilities ”.

A motard navigates stony terrain on the Dakar 2020
A motard navigates stony terrain on the Dakar 2020

The Frenchman also referred to the problems that participants will have in finding sponsors in the midst of a crisis. “It was important to stop the world a little for a month, month and a half or two at the most to adapt and find a new way of living, but nothing else, because if we don’t all starve to death from the coronavirus. There is sure to be an impact on sponsors and on each person’s ability to find money. Who can go to a company today to ask for money to do the Dakar? Nobody. We are going to lose competitors but you have to live with it ”, he expressed, revealing that ASO works in aid for the participants.

“We are prepared for that, we are very aware of it and we are also working on the commercial offer and We are going to prepare a lot of things to help the competitors so they can go to the Dakar. We are thinking about aid, but everyone has to help, not just us, the providers, the people who work with us. It is a global effort by the world that has to adapt to a unique situation. We are currently working hard on this to make a proposal to the competitors at the time of the organization’s first communication and to say on a commercial level what we can do to help each of the pilots, ”he revealed.

In addition, he was confident that the Morocco Rally, a great test before the Dakar that takes place in October, can be held, although with changes, such as the move away from Moroccan cities and have a single bivouac in the desert to avoid infection.

At Dakar 2021 it should also be necessary to implement regulations such as the use of masks, gloves, increase the disinfectant gel that was already present in the dining room and increase the number of dining room tables to allow safe distance between diners, measures that still need to be finalized and that should be in place by September.

“I cannot say what we are going to do in January. We are waiting but We will almost certainly have masks in the bivouac, we will have to put more gel than we already had and that we will have something else, maybe more tables in the dining room to be more separated each. We are waiting and in September it will be the last moment for us to define the type of conditions. So, we are going to know with the Arab authorities what measures we can take for the safety of all, ”he said.

At the beginning of March, the Dakar, teams and pilots met to increase the safety of the participants by implementing a intake flange on motorcycles to reduce speed, airbag vests and a digital roadbook. “With the Covid-19, that has complicated things for us. It is difficult to move forward as we would like. We have thought about it. The digital roadbook has indeed advanced and developed, we should have it at the Rally of Morocco. The airbag is what has advanced the best, I think we will have them, but we will see with the teams at the end of May, what measures we can save or not, and those that we cannot do in 2021 we are going to implement in 2022 ”.

“The digital roadbook I am almost sure, the development is done. It is necessary to produce and buy and it is a great effort for all of all the material that comes from China, which has lost two months, but in normal conditions it should be for Morocco ”, he clarified.

“I hope Sainz returns; Alonso? Hopefully!”

Carlos Sainz has already admitted to MD that he wants to defend the title in the Dakar 2021
But for this you will need to find another sponsor in times of crisis. Is it possible that a Dakar will be played without its champion? The director of the Dakar, Castera, to MD.

Carlos Sainz, winner of the Dakar 2020
Carlos Sainz, winner of the Dakar 2020

“I think that under normal conditions a man like Carlos will find one way or another to be there. But a lot can happen. It is not a normal year and nothing like this has ever happened in life. Surely we are going to experience strange things and that Carlos cannot compete could be one of them. It would be a shame for everyone but we will each see how we can move forward, find solutions and can adapt. But at the moment there is still time, we are far away, and I think the team (Mini X-raid) is also going to look for solutions. We hope Carlos can be with us ”, he commented, hoping that Fernando Alonso
can also come back, considering that the coronavirus could have prevented him from seeking new challenges.

“Yes, the good thing is that He would only have the Dakar left (laughs). He said to my wife, “This year he will not do anything, he may do the Dakar.” I don’t know, let’s see. Hopefully!, We would be very happy that Fernando Alonso can return to compete in the Dakar 2021 ”.

Fernando Alonso, in the Dakar 2020 with the Toyota Gazoo Racing
Fernando Alonso, in the Dakar 2020 with the Toyota Gazoo Racing

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