Cristina Gutiérrez is the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies T3 category champion © DPPI/Red Bull Content Pool
History has been made today on the dunes of Abu Dhabi as Cristina Gutiérrez (ESP) becomes the first-ever female driver to win the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies. The triumph comes off the back of a gruelling season that has seen Gutiérrez and her Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team take on perilous terrain in Europe, Africa and Asia
Gutiérrez finished the job in style as she and co-driver François Cazalet (FRA) took their OT3 race vehicle to a stage win on the final day of competition at the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge. The points accrued in the dunes of the Empty Quarter gave the duo an unassailable lead in the T3 category of the 2021 FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies.
“We are World Champions! I can’t believe it, after such a hard year I’ve had, I can’t be happier. I have no words!” – Cristina Gutiérrez
It’s even more history for Gutiérrez as she becomes the first-ever woman to win a World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies title. Earlier this year the Spanish racer had become the first female to win a stage of the Dakar Rally since Jutta Kleinschmidt’s last stage win in 2005.
The foundations were laid for Gutiérrez’s historical triumph with wins at the first two stops of the World Cup season. An emotionally charged victory in her native Spain at May’s Andalucia Rally was followed up with a win at Rally Kazakhstan in June. Things were not so straightforward though for the championship leader. She summoned superhuman strength to cross the finish line in Kazakhstan after sustaining three broken vertebrae during the final stage of the rally.
Gutiérrez was transferred directly from the finish line in Kazakhstan to hospital. It was uncertain whether she would race again this year, but the Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team driver was determined to get back as soon as possible. Two months of intense recovery, physiotherapy and doctor’s appointments followed, before Gutiérrez was given the green light to return to racing.
More precious championship points were secured at Rallye du Maroc last month before Gutiérrez and the Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team pitched up at the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge. Another solid performance saw her go clear of her nearest competitor – fellow Spaniard Fernando Alvarez – in the rankings. At the finish line in Abu Dhabi it was confirmed that Gutiérrez had done enough to be crowned T3 champion of the 2021 FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies, even with one race of the season still remaining.
“Thank you all for your love and support, thank you to my family for always sending me the best energy! Thanks to all the Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team for a great job and thank you to my co-driver François Cazalet for a great year!” – Cristina Gutiérrez
Special praise was also reserved for Ken Westermeyer from M-Track who came to Abu Dhabi all the way from South Africa. With his bags full of new parts to work on Gutiérrez’s gearbox after each stage, Westermeyer played a key role in helping Gutiérrez maintain a trouble-free run.
Gutierrez and Cazalet were congratulated at the finish line by team-mates Seth Quintero (USA)/Dennis Zenz (GER) and Guillaume De Mevius (BEL)/Tom Colsoul (BEL). These two Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team crews had been running the 2022 spec OT3 in Abu Dhabi. The valuable kilometres both crews managed to bank at the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge will be used as part of the team’s preparation for the 2022 Dakar Rally, starting on January 1.
“Huge congratulations to Cristina and François, T3 Cross-Country World Champions!” – Guillaume De Mevius
Gutierrez’s record-breaking achievement underlines the ambition of the Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team to provide a springboard for new talent to succeed in rally-raid. Just two years into the program – and after developing its own OT3 by Overdrive prototype car – it now has its first world champion. The result is testament to the hard work and dedication of every single member of the team.
The Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team also shares this World Cup win with its passionate partners who have been onboard since the very first kilometre. BFGoodrich have developed with us a specialist side-by-side tire, the KDR3. Meanwhile, KMC Wheels have manufactured a customised forged wheel for the program and have flown 50 latest spec wheels in unit boxes around the world via FedEx to allow us having the best product to race. We celebrate our latest achievement with all those involved with the Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team program.
Following victory in the World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies, the Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team are more determined than ever to keep up their winning streak as they target success at the upcoming Dakar Rally.
2021 FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies – T3 category
1. Cristina Gutiérrez (ESP)
2. Fernando Alvarez (ESP)
3. Pavel Lebedev (RUS)
“We are World Champions! I can’t believe it, after such a hard year I’ve had, I can’t be happier. I have no words! Thank you all for your love and support, thank you to my family for always sending me the best energy! Thanks to all the Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team for a great job and thank you to my co-driver François Cazalet for a great year!
It was not an easy rally for us. We had some trouble since the beginning, but we tried to manage the best we could. The first couple of stages in particular were not easy for us here in Abu Dhabi. Finally we managed to find a good pace and avoid mistakes. With this we made it to the finish line and took important points for the championship.
This is rally-raid and you need to keep your speed all the time. These races are so long so it’s difficult to always be at the front on every stage. It was important to us to make sure we scored as many points as possible."
Guillaume De Mevius:
“I’m very happy with this rally, it was very nice for me and Tom to learn to drive together. Also for me to learn to drive in the sand and on the dunes. It was five days of sand so that definitely helped me a lot. I still have things to learn, but for sure this was a good training for me. We helped prepare the team’s car for the next Dakar so it was a good race for us. Now we have to concentrate on the Dakar and all our objectives for that. I’m certain it will all be OK and we will put everything together for the Dakar. Huge congratulations to Cristina and François, T3 Cross-Country World Champions!”
“My experience of the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge was a lot of fun. The stages that I did were fun. Unfortunately our rally got cut short, but I’m already looking forward to coming back next year and trying to get a win.”