JEDDAH (SAUDI ARABIA): The South Racing Can-Am Team will be aiming to secure victory and further podium success in the SSV T4 category at the 2021 Dakar Rally, starting in the Saudi Arabian coastal city of Jeddah on January 2nd (Saturday).
The Germany-based preparations company has entered six cars under the South Racing Can-Am Team banner, four under the Monster Energy Can-Am Team arm and two further SSVs entered as the Energylandia Rally Team.
Qatar’s Khalifa Al-Attiyah, Chilean Francesco Lopez, Dutchman Kees Koolen, Spaniard Fernando Alvarez, Saudi driver Saeed Al-Mouri and Portuguese driver Lourenço Rosa drive the South Racing Can-Am Team entries.
After a four-year lay-off from top-flight competition, Al-Attiyah returned to competitive action at the recent Ha’il Baja and sealed victory at the final round of the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Bajas on his debut with the new team. The younger brother of Dakar front-runner Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah, Khalifa will team up with former Italian enduro rider and 2018 African Eco Race winner Paulo Ceci in the first of the South Racing Can-Ams.
Al-Attiyah, 42, will also be making his Dakar debut on an event where Ceci makes his first appearance as a navigator after five finishes on a motorcycle between 2010 and 2016. The pair only met for the first time at the start of the month before the Ha’il Baja events, but showed enough potential to suggest they will be challenging for the Dakar podium.
Koolen was crowned as the 2020 FIA T4 World Champion in mid-December and he and fellow Dutchman Jurgen van der Goorbergh head to the start of the Dakar in confident mood.
Koolen will be tackling his 12th Dakar and second in an SSV after taking part previously in cars and trucks and on bikes and quads. His best finish was eighth on a quad in 2018 and he was classified as the 17th SSV in 2020. Van der Goorbergh is a close friend of the Dutch businessman and won the prestigious Original by Motul motorcycle class in 2016.
“I have been keeping fit this year,” said Koolen. “The Dakar is not that difficult when you are fully fit. Experience is important as well. Last year we had little experience in the SSV but, after the recent series of events, I hope to be able to drive more easy and get into less problems.”
Francesco ‘Chaleco’ Lopez is one of the most experienced Dakar competitors and a veteran of nine events – one in Africa, seven in South America and the last event in Saudi Arabia. He switched to driving an SSV in 2019 to claim victory and won two stages in 2020 on his way to second overall. The Chilean also claimed two podiums on two wheels in South America in 2010 and 2013.
Lopez will be partnered by fellow countryman Juan-Pablo Latrach. He said: “2020 was a difficult year, full of uncertainties, because of the pandemic. This is my Dakar and I am going all out for first place right from the start.”
Alvarez and fellow Spaniard Antonio Gimeno Garcia crew the fourth of the six South Racing Can-Ams. The Grupo Conarpesa-backed driver currently resides in Buenos Aires and has tackled numerous FIA events around the world with South Racing.
Saudi Arabian driver Saeed Al-Mouri will tackle his home event in a Can-Am. Renowned as a world-class driver in the drifting discipline, Al-Mouri has also tackled rounds of the FIA Middle East rally series and cross-country events in the Gulf region. He teams up with Uruguay’s Sergio Lafuente.
The Portuguese crew of Lourenço Rosa and Joaquim Dias will tackle the event for the first time in the sixth of the South Racing Can-Am Team X3s. Rosa took part in the recent Ha’il Bajas and has experience of Portuguese Cross-Country events.
“The Dakar is the dream and I have to try at least one time in my life,” said the textile business owner. “My father also did off-road races 40 years ago. He did rallies in Africa and it was his dream to do a Dakar but he never had the opportunity. My first goal is to finish the race. I would also like to finish in the top 10 in the T4 class.”
South Racing has also built four Can-Am Maverick X3s for the Monster Energy Can-Am Team. Brazilian Reinaldo Varela, Pole Aron Domżala, Spaniard Gerard Farrés and young American Austin Jones drive the four team SSVs with their respective co-drivers Maykel Justo, Maciej Marton, Armand Monleón and Gustavo Gugelmin reading the road books and offering vital navigational expertise on the demanding desert special stages.
South Racing will also run a pair of Can-Am Maverick X3s, running under the Energylandia Rally Team banner, for the Polish duo of Marek and Michal Goczal.
Marek, 45, is the owner of Poland’s largest theme park, Energylandia, and will be taking part in his first Dakar alongside the experienced Rafal Marton. The event also marks a Dakar debut for 29-year-old younger brother Michal and his navigator Szymon Gospodarczyk, the latter taking part in his fourth Dakar.
South Racing Can-Am Team’s Scott Abraham said: “This will be the biggest team that South Racing has ever assembled for the Dakar. It also shows the strength of the SSV T4 category which, in three short years, has grown to be the largest class on the Dakar. With Polaris joining us this year, as well as Yamaha, it shows the importance of the category, not only to competitors, but also to manufacturers.
“We have a 12-car line-up, including the Monster Energy cars, and that is testament to the strength and durability of the Can-Am Maverick. We have a great group of drivers and we are looking forward to the next 13 days of racing. We will be challenging for the podium and hopefully taking top positions and bringing all our vehicles home. We will also be supporting 26 other South Racing-built Can-Ams with the Can-Am Customer Service division which, once again, adds a new dimension to the sport supporting amateurs and other smaller private teams with access to technology, spares and the expertise of South Racing.”
Action gets underway with an 11km Prologue in Jeddah on January 2nd and that will determine the starting order for the opening selective section of 27km between Jeddah and Bisha on January 3rd.
A longer 457km stage takes place between Bisha and Wadi Al-Dawasir on Monday and this is followed by a loop stage of 403km on January 5th. The Dakar route then heads on to the Saudi capital Riyadh for a stage of 337km next Wednesday.
Teams will then tackle a 419km stage between Riyadh and Buraydah on January 7th before heading on to Ha’il along a challenging 485km selective section. The city in the north-central region of the Kingdom will then host the traditional rest day on January 9th.
Action resumes with a 471km Marathon stage between Ha’il and Sakaka and a shorter 375km special to the innovative new city of Neom, close to the shores of the Red Sea. Teams then tackle a Neom loop stage of 465km on January 12th before heading to the historic town of Al Ula on a special of 342km.
The penultimate stage of 511km takes the Monster Energy Can-Am Team from Al Ula to Yanbu on January 11th and the final timed section of 225km between Yanbu and Jeddah brings the event to a conclusion on January 12th.
Support for the Monster Energy Can-Am Team comes from Method Wheels, Tensor Tires, Motul, Jjuan Brake Systems, Bell, Lazer and OMP.