FIA World Rally Championship veteran Kris Meeke won the battle, but Chile’s Chaleco Lopez won the war, as the 2021 Dakar Rally finally drew to a close earlier today with a 447-kilometer trek from Yanbu to Jeddah. Meeke’s time of 2:41:11 in his T3 lightweight prototype was best among all lightweight vehicles on the 200 kilometers of special stage, but a measured final day from Lopez saw him do more than enough to lock up his second UTV title in three years with an 11th place overall finish (eighth in the T4 SSV division).
That meant that Austin Jones’ hopes of following Casey Currie as the second American to win the Dakar in SSV in two years would fall just short. Jones never spent a day below sixth in the overall standings, and even led after Stage 8, but suffered a flat tire the next day that knocked him back to second. Last year’s second-best rookie maintained the runner-up overall spot today thanks to ninth overall on stage, sixth among T4 SSVs.
Aron Domzala wound up third overall, with rookie Michal Goczal and Reinaldo Varela completing the top five. Varela’s time of 2:44:26 was best among the T4 entries today, just 42 seconds better than Goczal for that honor. The highest-finishing T3 entry among all UTVs went to Josef Machacek, who wound up 12th among the combined rankings.
But while America’s hopes of back-to-back Dakar glory weren’t meant to be, that doesn’t mean the future isn’t still bright. SCORE legend Wayne Matlock completed his first Dakar with no major mistakes or errors, winding up in 13th overall after coming in 20th among all UTVs today. Matlock scored combined top-20 stage finishes in six of the final seven stages of the rally, including a ninth place run in Stage 9. Matlock’s wife and teammate, Kristen, fell out of overall contention after an incident on Stage 2, but nonetheless completed all other stages in the Dakar Experience division.
But the biggest heartbreak of the rally may have belonged to rookie Seth Quintero, who became the youngest stage winner in Dakar history with multiple overall UTV and T3 division stage wins during the event. Second overall to Jones and well in control of the T3 entries after Stage 8, Tuesday brought major mechanical failures that knocked him down to 24th overall. Quintero recovered over the final few days, posting an overall victory yesterday in the penultimate stage, to climb back to 18th among all UTVs, and just one spot shy of the T3 podium.
2021 Dakar Rally Stage 12 Winners
- Lightweight Prototype: Kris Meeke, 2:41:11
- SSV: Reinaldo Varela, 2:44:26
2021 Dakar Rally Overall Rankings
|Class||T3 (Lightweight Prototype)||T4 (SSV)|
|1st||Josef Machacek, 59:39:01||Chaleco Lopez, 53:41:02|
|2nd||Camelia Liparoti, +2:12:23||Austin Jones, +17:23|
|3rd||Philippe Pinchedez, +2:36:26||Aron Domzala, +51:53|
|4th||Seth Quintero, +2:51:14||Michal Goczal, +1:13:58|
|5th||Jean-Luc Pisson, +3:04:37||Reinaldo Varela, +1:27:05|