2020 Dakar Rally heads to Saudi Arabia for the very first time
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More than 5000km of entirely new competitive special stages await crews contesting the 2020 Dakar Rally.
The 42nd edition of the cross country marathon begins a new era with the rally now based in the deserts, canyons and mountain regions of Saudi Arabia. The event gains its name from its traditional Paris-to-Dakar route first used in 1979 and retained the title after moving to South America from 2009.
Saudi Arabia promises a demanding event with 5097km of special stages included in a total route of 7856km. There are 12 stages in the January 5 to 17 rally, with an estimated 75 per cent running in sand dunes.
The rally starts from the ancient Red Sea port of Jeddah and runs for six days to the traditional mid-rally rest day in Riyadh on January 11. The second half of the event loops south of the country to finish in the new resort city of Qiddiyah on January 17.
While the route is a totally new challenge the field of 351 vehicles (cars, trucks, motorcycles, quads and side-by-side UTVs) features many familiar front runners.
The Toyota Gazoo Racing squad fields a quartet of its Hilux V8 racers for defending champion Nasser Al Attiyah (Qatar) along with Giniel de Villiers (South Africa) and Bernhard Ten Brinke (Belgium).
Toyota also has the driver who will create the biggest publicity burst for the event – former F1 world champion Fernando Alonso (Spain). Alonso is teamed with fellow Spaniard Coma who is a former Dakar motorcycle winner.
The X-Raid Mini squad is headed by former winners Stephane Peterhansel (France) and Carlos Sainz (Spain) while Spaniard Nani Roma – another former winner – will drive a Borgward buggy.
UAE driver Khalid Al Qassimi continues his close links with the Peugeot and Citroen brands to run one of the Peugeot 2008 DKR vehicles now campaigned under the PH Sport banner.
Saudi rally driver Yazeed Al Rahji has a Toyota Hilux run by Overdrive Racing and former WRC driver Martin Prokop (Czech Republic) returns with his Ford Ranger-based racer.
The KTM brand has an unbeaten record in Dakar motorcycle competition stretching back to 2001. It’s team is headed by the three most recent Dakar winners – Australian Tony Price, Austria’s Matthias Walkner and British rider Sam Sunderland.
Other stars of the motorcycle field are Honda’s Kevin Benavides (Argentina), Ricky Brabec (USA) and Joan Barreda Bort (Spain), Yamaha riders Adrien Van Beveren (France) and Xavier de Soultrait (France) and Husqvarna’s Chilean rider Pablo Quintanilla.
The Russian Kamaz-Master team will start as favourite in the Truck category with Eduard Nikolaev looking for a fourth consecutive victory and facing challenges from the Praga, IVECO, Renault, Maz and Tatra teams.
The 2020 Dakar Rally entry list of 351 vehicles comprises 170 motorcycles and quads, 134 cars and side-by-sides and 47 trucks.