SPANISH motorcycle racer Laia Sanz has clinched her 11th win in the 2021 Dakar Rally, rewriting the history books and putting a year from hell behind her.
The 35-year-old Gas-Gas rider from Corbera de Llobregat in Barcelona rode a faultless race to finish 17th overall in the motorcycle category, 6 hours and 29 minutes behind the eventual winner, Argentinian Kevin Benavides.
The 2021 result marks her 8th time within the top twenty overall and becomes the most successful woman in motorcycle rallying history.
From an outsiders perspective, many would not imagine that jut days prior to the event starting, Sanz would be laying in a hotel room unable to stand due to a severe case of Lymes disease.
“I was not in the best condition leading up to the event,” explained Sanz.
“For months I could not do anything, not train, not prepare, nothing.”
Sanz was also nursing a hand injury suffered on Stage Two of the 2020 event that damaged two ligaments and left her with a year long recovery period.
To add to the physical pain endured by the young Spaniard, Sanz was also reeling at the death of her partner Paulo Goncalves during a heavy crash at the 2020 event.
Speaking on the 12 stage arduous time trial, “This year has been the hardest yet, the stages are both mentally and physically challenging so to come away with the win in the female class means something special.”
In the male category, Sherco Factory rider Lorenzo Santolino placed sixth as highest Spanish rider before the KTM duo of Jaume Betriu and Tosha Schareina.
British Factory KTM rider Sam Sunderland took an impressive third for the 31-year-old from Poole.
Spanish veteran and rally legend Carlos Sainz took third in the T1 four-wheel category in his heavily modified X-Raid Mini with fellow countryman Nani Roma in fifth.