When Dakar Rally moved to Saudi Arabia, there was a concern about Saudi Arabia’s treatment of women rights activists. If you did not know, Saudi Arabian culture is one of the most conservative cultures. It is also the most profoundly gender-segregated nation on Earth. Before the year 2017, Saudi women could not drive a car, leave alone ride a motorcycle. The country Human Rights Watch, MENA Rights Group and 11 other international Human Rights organisations were pressing the Amaury Sport Organisation to use its decision to move the Dakar Rally to Saudi Arabia to denounce the persecution of women rights advocates in the country. At the time, women rights activists were languishing in jail for promoting the right to drive.
The Dakar Rally has been the best kick off for 2021 for all riders from all over the world. It is always a New Years gift to us, well, majority of us. There is also something new about it. A completely new route that has been put together, described as a lot slower, more varied, and more technical.
I am more keen on the women participating in the Dakar this year. 2020 saw the entrant of two women from South Africa, so far the only African women to have ever participated in the Dakar Rally. You can read about the 2020 Dakar Rally women here. This year, there is a total of eleven women participating. Four of these women are participating for their first time which is a good sign that Dakar Rally continues to attract more women participants. The motorcycles category has four women, Quad (SSV) has four women as well, one in the classic category and two women navigators.
Dakar is the most difficult motorsport in the world and we truly must celebrate these tough and bold women taking part in the sport. Though the number of women is always small compared to the men, these few women continue to represent us and put us on the history of Dakar Rally and that is absolutely a win by itself. Previously, longtime racing driver Christine Beckers took on the challenging race during its first running in 1979. And Jutta Kleinschmidt became the first woman to win a stage in 1998, then the first woman to win overall in 2001.
Below are the women in the 2021 Dakar Rally. Follow them and let us cheer them on.
SARA JUGLA (FRA)— No. 102 TEAM BAINES RALLY
This is the first Dakar Rally for Sarah Riding whose riding in the sand is said to be her speciality and therefore one girl to watch closely. She says and I quote “It is important that women are represented at all levels of the motorcycle world”. Can’t wait to watch her to the end.
AUDREY ROSSAT (FRA) — No. 100 TEAM RS CONCEPT
Audrey is another first time participant in the Rally. She is however a long time racer. Her biggest concern in the rally is navigation. Let’s cheer her on.
LAIA SANZ NO. 44 – GAS GAS FACTORY TEAM
For Laia Sanz, this is her eleven Dakar Rally participation and she has maintained her record of the best female finisher. She is defending that record again this year and hoping to also earn a place on the podium.
SARA GARCÍA (ESP) — No. 98 POINT GRUP YAMAHA
Sara García participated in 2019 Dakar Rally as her first outing after a bad crash that left her shaken physically and emotionally. In 2020, she signed up for the World Bajas competition that were held in Portugal and she took a medal home for her country.
SAUANY MARTÍNEZ (BOL) — No. 177 TEAM CAN-AM MARTINEZ – QUAD
Suany Martínez a cosmetologist by profession, was the first woman from Bolivia to ever compete in the Dakar Rally. In 2017, a mechanical problem knocked her out of competition and a leg injury after a crash did so in 2018. She managed to register for this year’s Dakar last minute. She is excited about her third participation.
CRISTINA GUTIERREZ HERRERO (ESP) — No. 387 RED BULL OFF-ROAD TEAM USA – SSV
This is Cristina’s fifth consecutive outing at Dakar. She is competing in the Extreme E championship.
CAMÉLIA LIPAROTI (ITA) — No. 931 YAMAHA POWERED BY X-RAID TEAM – SSV
Camélia Liparoti is a certified Dakar legend with over a decade of experience under her belt. When she’s not competing, she’s a photojournalist in France and an avid mountaineer—basically, anything to get the adrenaline pumping.
KRISTEN MATLOCK (USA) — No. 409 POLARIS RZR FACTORY RACING — SSV
This is Kristen’s first ever Dakar Rally. She is however known as the Iron Woman in Baja and is taking that reputation with her to Dakar Rally. She began racing with her husband—against whom she’s competing at Dakar. Her number one goal this year? Beat her husband.
AMY LERNER (USA) — No. 202 AL RALLY — CLASSIC
Double first!!. This is Amy’s first ever Dakar Rally. It is also the first time, the Dakar Classic is running simultaneously with the overall event. Her car may be the most watched-for car during the event. She’s been competing in all-female rally events since 2011. This year, she’s doing it in an absolutely gorgeous Porsche.
Congratulating all these women for being bold to enter the Dakar Rally. That is the first win right there. You can share a message of encouragement for the ladies in the comment section.
Information on the women in the Dakar Rally sourced from JalopNik.