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Laia Sanz – On the Dakar GASGAS!

4 months ago | Words: Andy Wigan | Photos: Rally Zone

Could GASGAS have a more fitting race ambassador than Laia Sanz? It’s hard to imagine one. Aside from the fact that this multiple world women’s champion (in both trial and enduro disciplines) shares Spanish ancestry with GASGAS, Sanz’s first-ever race outing aboard a GASGAS back in January at the 2020 Dakar Rally generated a slice of history for both herself and the now KTM-owned manufacturer. Riding Gasser’s all-new RC450F rally-spec machine in the 2020 Dakar, Sanz was the highest-placed female competitor for an astonishing 10th consecutive time, and she placed a very respectable 18th Overall in the process.

Come early January, the 35-year-old Sanz will line up again aboard the GASGAS Factory Racing RC450F in a bid to notch up her 11th consecutive Dakar Rally finish and claim the honour of being the highest-placed female competitor for an 11th consecutive time. On the one hand, Sanz’s preparation hasn’t been ideal. But on the other, the rule changes for this year’s rally are likely to work in her favour. Here’s an excerpt from GASGAS’s PR about Laia Sanz’s Dakar Rally ambitions for 2021…

In what has been a difficult year for all, for Laia recent months have been especially challenging due to contracting Lyme Disease during the summer, making her final Dakar preparations more complicated than normal. However, with support from her team, friends, and sponsors, Laia believes she is now ready to take on the world’s toughest cross-country rally. The RC450F rider is fully focused on completing her 11th consecutive Dakar and delivering another strong result.

The 43rd edition of the race will see an increased emphasis placed on rider navigation and competitor’s abilities to tackle slower-speed, technical terrain, which is great news for Laia. Reducing the event’s average speeds, with her ability to both navigate well while under pressure and complete long stages with the minimum of mistakes, Laia is upbeat about this year’s route.

Laia Sanz: “It’s been a really tough year for me, so to be able to look forward to racing the 2021 Dakar means so much. I injured my hand on the second stage of this year’s Dakar back in January, and although I carried on and completed the event, the injury turned out to be worse than we thought. It took a while at the beginning of the year to recover from that. I was really looking forward to start training on my GASGAS trial and enduro bikes, and maybe fitting in some events. Unfortunately, when I was finally able to get out on my bikes again, I started to feel ill. Eventually I was diagnosed with Lyme Disease, which made me feel very unwell. Thankfully, with the right treatment, I have been able to start riding again. I know I’m not 100 percent and we’ll have to see just how I feel when the rally starts in January. It helps that we have some experience now of the terrain we will face, and the way things work with the move to the Middle East. The event in January should also be a little more technical and with tougher navigation, so I’m looking forward to that. I don’t want to put any pressure on myself, and another finish would be incredible, but my main goal is to go there and just enjoy the race.”

Jordi Viladoms – GASGAS Rally Team Manager: “Laia is a true champion, a real fighter, and even though this year has been difficult for her, we know she will do all she can to be competitive at Dakar. She knows very well how to manage the race and her finishing record is incredible. It really shows how determined she is as a racer, and how she understands the real challenge of Dakar. With this year’s route looking like it will be more technical, I’m sure it will suit her really well. What she lacks in terms of time riding her bike in recent months, I am sure she can make up for with her experience and determination. Dakar is always difficult, but Laia always rises to the challenge.”

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