With an American champion returning to defend his championship for the first time, here all the TV and schedule information you’ll need for following the 2021 Dakar Rally.
For the second consecutive year, the off-road rally raid classic will be held in Saudi Arabia, where the course will cover 12 days and more than 3,000 miles. There are more than 500 drivers and riders on the entry list for the event, whose divisions include motorbikes, cars, lightweights and trucks.
California native Ricky Brabec will be among the favorites in bikes after becoming the first American to win the Dakar Rally last year (Casey Currie also was a U.S. champion last year but isn’t racing the event in 2021).
Andrew Short also should be a contender after moving to the Yamaha team.
In the overall car class, three-time Dakar winner Carlos Sainz is back to defend his crown against a field that includes Nasser Al Attiyah and Stephane Peterhansel.
Here is the schedule for watching same-day coverage of the Dakar Rally on NBCSN:
Sun., Jan. 3
Stage 1 – Jeddah to Bisha
Mon., Jan. 4
Stage 2 – Bisha to Wadi Al Dawasir
Tues., Jan. 5
Stage 3 – Wadi Al Dawasir Loop Stage
Wed., Jan. 6
Stage 4 – Wadi Al Dawasir to Riyadh
Thurs., Jan. 7
Stage 5 – Riyadh to Buraydah
Fri., January 8
Stage 6 – Buraydah to Ha’il
Sat., Jan. 9
Sun., Jan. 10
Stage 7 – Ha’il to Sakaka
Mon., Jan. 11
Stage 8 – Sakaka to Neom
Tues., Jan. 12
Stage 9 – Neom Loop Stage
Wed., Jan. 13
Stage 10 – Neom to Al- ‘Ula
Thurs., Jan. 14
Stage 11 – Al- ‘Ula to Yanbu
Fri., Jan. 15
Stage 12 – Yanbu to Jeddah
Competitors will race Jan. 2 in a 129-kilometer Prologue to determine the starting order. The race will begin Jan. 3 with a rest day Jan. 9 and the conclusion on Jan. 15.
Here are the daily distances (total/special):
Stage 1: 623/277 kilometers; held entirely on tracks through valleys with stony pathways a hazard for tires
Stage 2: 685/457 km; yellow and white dunes
Stage 3: 629/403 km; pure desert near the gateway to the famous “Empty Quarter”
Stage 4: 813/337 km; winding tracks comprise the longest stage
Stage 5: 662/456 km; difficult dunes section will slow the pace
Stage 6: 618/448 km; a variety of smooth and sandy dunes
Stage 7: 737/471 km; sand mountains and stony plateaus
Stage 8: 709/375 km; some majestic landscapes
Stage 9: 579/465 km; a stretch along the shore of the Red Sea
Stage 10: 583/342 km; hills lead to gorgeous vistas
Stage 11: 557/511 km; dunes return
Stage 12: 452/225 km; more dunes as the rally returns to its start in Jeddah
Roadbook distribution: The maps will be handed out 10 minutes (for cars) or 20 minutes (motorbikes) ahead of the starts.
Increased warning/slow zones: Competitors will face new speed limits in some hazardous areas, which also will have greater notification
Tire management: Bike riders will be limited to six rear tires over 12 stages
Airbag vests: The safety devices are mandatory for motorbike and quad competitors.
Work restrictions: Piston changes will incur increased penalties for riders, who also will be precluded from tinkering on bikes while at 15-minute refueling stations.