The 2021 Dakar Rally has been full of surprises, and Sunday’s Stage 7 trek from Ha’il to Sakaka was no exception. After Saleh Alsaif appeared set to take his second stage win of 2021, looking to join countryman Yazeed Al Rajhi as the second driver from Saudi Arabia to take a home victory, organizers awarded 2019 SSV winner Chaleco Lopez 45 minutes after discovering he had stopped on stage to tend to a motorcycle rider who had crashed. The revision gave Lopez the T4 SSV and overall UTV victories, and enabled him to make up a good chunk of time on overall leader Aron Domzala.
The top five T4 racers were separated by just 10 minutes and 30 seconds, with Alsaif coming in just two minutes ahead of Reinaldo Varela and Michal Goczal and Domzala rounding out the top five. Only one T3 lightweight prototype racer, Cristina Gutierrez Herrero, was able to split the group, with her time of 5:25:41 good for fifth among all UTV racers on the day.
Coming off the rest day of the rally, Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team driver Seth Quintero was just 38 seconds off teammate Gutierrez Herrero for top honors in the T3 class, and seventh among all UTVs on Sunday. But by virtue of coming in almost nine minutes ahead of Austin Jones, the two Americans have swapped podium positions in the combined UTV rankings, with Quintero just 8:41 behind Domzala for top honors between the two classes. Quintero remains nearly two hours ahead of Gutierrez Herrero for the T3 division lead.
It was another successful day for the factory Polaris RZR team of Wayne and Kristen Matlock, as both Dakar rookies once again finished the stage. Wayne’s time of 6:01:15 was good for 20th among all UTVs and 17th in T4 SSV, and he currently sits 17th in the overall T4 standings with five stages remaining. Kristen suffered 15 minutes of penalties and came in 45 minutes behind Wayne, but still finished 35th among UTVs and 26th in T4 SSV as she continues the event in the Dakar Experience class.
Sunday’s stage was the Marathon stage of the rally, meaning racers won’t be able to receive any assistance on their vehicles tonight. At the conclusion of tomorrow’s stage, which takes racers from Sakaka to Neom, they’ll be able to rejoin their crews in the bivouac and reset for the final four stages of the rally.
Coverage of the 2021 Dakar Rally continues on the NBC Sports Network tonight at 6PM ET/3PM PT. As always, the top of the hour recaps the previous day—in this case, the rest day—and the bottom of the hour includes current day footage.
2021 Dakar Rally Stage 7 Winners
- Lightweight Prototype: Cristina Gutierrez Herrero, 5:25:41
- SSV: Chaleco Lopez, 5:15:34
2021 Dakar Rally Overall Rankings
|Class||T3 (Lightweight Prototype)||T4 (SSV)|
|1st||Seth Quintero, 32:39:14||Aron Domzala, 32:30:33|
|2nd||Cristina Gutierrez Herrero, +1:56:16||Austin Jones, +9:41|
|3rd||Josef Machacek, +3:50:11||Chaleco Lopez, +25:21|
|4th||Camelia Liparoti, +4:37:14||Michal Goczal, +34:07|
|5th||Jean-Luc Pisson, +5:14:53||Sergei Kariakin, +52:02|