Despite the reduction in length, stage 11 of the 2021 Dakar was still quite difficult to deal with for both Ashish Raorane and Harith Noah
The penultimate stage of the Dakar 2021, the 557km traverse from Al Ula to Yanbu (along with the 464km special), was especially difficult for both Harith Noah and Ashish Raorane, despite the overall stage being reduced in length owing to bad weather in the areas around the final few waypoints. A fine mix of soil and sand, it was especially difficult with regards to navigation, which did end up impacting both the Indian privateers’ timings.
Starting off with Harith, the TVS Racing - sponsored privateer wasn’t too happy with how the stage went. This was because though he felt content with his progress in the initial sectors of the stage, a significant navigation mistake towards the end cost him close to 10 minutes (as he himself reckons). Besides, further time was lost when he rode slow in a speed zone which was showing on the GPS, but not on the roadbook. Ultimately, his P18 stage finish (a drop of two spots from the previous stage) means he’s now P22 in the overall standings (a gain of two places), which, he believes, was the only silver lining of this long stage.
Ashish’s Stage 11 story, meanwhile, wasn’t nearly as positive. The Dakar Experience rider not only found the stage tough to deal with, but a crash approximately 25km before the end (owing to some issues with his KTM 450 Rally Replica’s steering dampener) compounded his difficulties. Nursing a few bruises, though otherwise unhurt, Ashish rode out the remainder of the stage with Coca-Cola Nomadas rider Andrew Houlihan and his teammate Pablo Guillen, both of whom he had ridden with during the Africa Eco race in January last year. Ashish finished the stage at P57, and was slapped with yet another neutralisation penalty, but since he’s not classified in the overall, he did not seem to be following up on it.
The final stage of the 2021 Dakar will be a 447km sprint back to Jeddah, completing the circuit that was the 43rd edition of the Dakar. Now, though the stage will be relatively short (247km liaison, 200km special) that does not mean it will be by any means simple. An even more potent mixture of sand and soil, along with the ever-present dunes, means the riders will need to stay alert till the very end.