LEADING Zimbabwe motor rally driver Conrad Rautenbach will not have a chance to improve on his impressive fourth place finish in the Dakar Rally early this year after confirming that he will not feature in the upcoming edition of the world’s most gruelling off-road endurance contest.
BY DANIEL NHAKANISO
After months of uncertainty amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the 43rd running of the Dakar Rally and the second to take place in Saudi Arabia will start on January 3 in Jeddah before concluding in the same city on January 15, after passing through the capital of Riyadh.
Rautenbach was expected to lift the Zimbabwe flag high again after an impressive show in the side-by-side (SSV) vehicle category for the French team PH Sport’s Zephyr last year but has confirmed that he would not be taking part this time due to the effects of the coronavirus.
However problems caused by the coronavirus pandemic meant Rautenbach missed out on training and crucial sponsorship needed for him to secure a spot for the upcoming race.
“Unfortunately no Dakar Rally for me this year, COVID-19 messed up everything but looking forward to competing again in the future,” Rautenbach told NewsDay Sport in an interview.
The 36 year-old Rautenbach is a two-time winner of the African Rally Championship and a former competitor in the prestigious World Rally Championship where he competed in over 50 rallies as part of the Citroën Junior Team.
He made his Dakar Rally debut in 2017, becoming the first Zimbabwean to compete in the event which was then held in South America.
However his best Dakar performance to date came in January when he narrowly missed out on a podium finish before settling for fourth position on his debut in the SSV category in the French team PH Sport’s buggy.
Rautenbach becomes the second Zimbabwean to withdraw from the Dakar Rally after off-road motorcycle rider Graeme Sharp.
Sharp recently revealed that he will not be participating at the Dakar Rally 2021 after the COVID-19 pandemic affected his training schedule and sponsorship prospects.
Early this year, Sharp achieved his dream of becoming the first local bike rider to finish the tough rally after he finished 74th overall on debut appearance.