• The second half of the 2021 Dakar Rally is in full swing with eight stages completed.
• The world's toughest rally is taking place in Saudi Arabia for the second time.
• The 12-stage event is being led Stephane Peterhansel in the car section for Mini X-Raid.
The 43rd edition of the Dakar Rally officially passed the halfway mark Sunday with the completion of the marathon stage. The seventh stage started in Ha'il and ended in Sakaka on Sunday after the crews enjoyed a well-deserved rest day.
The world's toughest rally is taking place in Saudi Arabia for only the second time in history after a decade in South America. The event, originally called the Paris-Dakar, took place between Europe and African from 1979 to 2007.
Back to the deserts of Saudi Arabia and we've picked some amazing moments captured by several Dakar photographers. I attended the race at the beginning of 2020 and can confirm it is indeed the perfect terrain, of mostly sand dunes, to host the Dakar.
1. In the clouds - Three helicopters are captured by Dakar photographer Charly Lopez. The helicopters track the participants for filming purposes as well as transporting organisers and medical personnel who keep a close eye on the world's toughest rally.
2. Flashes of light - Lopez is at it again, with a magical shot of lightening rods in the background as the Kamaz team work on their trucks in the foreground on the rest day.
One of the highlights of watching the race live is witnessing the impressive pace of a close to 10-ton truck powered by a 13-litre turbo engine with 860kW speeding through the desert. It's simply astonishing to see something this big move this fast.
3. Racing driver and mechanic - No race crew has completed the Dakar without an issue. There's is always something going wrong. Whether it is a puncture or missing a waypoint, the Dakar has many challenges.
One of the rules on the marathon stage is that work done on the cars must be done by the race crews and not the mechanics. In fact, the crews can only use the spares and tools they're carrying with them.
Below is a brilliant photograph by Julien Defolsse capturing a moment for French rally legend Sebastien Loeb who fixed the hub on his BRX.
4. Sand, sand and more sand - The sand dunes make the Saudi Arabian edition of the Dakar the most unique and arguably challenging in the event's history.
I spoke to the likes of Marc Coma, Nasser Al-Attiyah and Fernando Alonso at last year's event and they unanimously agreed the dunes pose a difficult obstacle. The dunes can be multiple stories high and on the other side feature sheer drops that can see cars and bikes roll within the blink of an eye.
The photograph by Antoine Janssens does a good job of illustrating what millions of sand grains can do to a race car.
5. First bike catches the sun - The bike category is the first to start the stage. And that sometimes means the competitors riding at dawn, like this competitor who was captured dodging some stony terrain with the morning sun proving a perfect backdrop.
Florent Godden perfectly frames the rider and all we can see is his silhouette and headlamp shining through the orange background.
*Chilean Jose Florimo leads the bike section on his Monster Energy Honda while 'Mr Dakar' Stephane Peterhansel is the overall leader in the car section by a few minutes to Toyota's Nasser Al-Attiyah who won the eighth stage on Monday.