HEY IT'S DUNES DAY
Spanish rally driver Carlos Sainz takes his third Dakar victory at the age of 57, while Honda’s Ricky Brabec ends KTM’s 18-year winning streak in the deserts of Saudi Arabia
THE DAKAR IS THE ULTIMATE TEST OF MAN and machine put together, easily the toughest and most respected rally raid on the globe. Where a typical rally raid goes on for five odd days, the Dakar takes place over two weeks – an endurance test like no other, with varying terrain and weather conditions. A stage is 500km on average, with the longest stages being close to 800km. Every year since 1979, hundreds of competitors have set out to experience the wildest adventure of their lives. The goal is pretty straightforward: get from the start to the finish line following the roadbook given to you, in the shortest time possible. However, grit, camaraderie and bucket loads of determination are needed to tackle the varied terrain, and make it to the bivouac safely and on time!
WHILE MR DAKAR STARTED THE SEASON WITH A SECOND-PLACE FINISH, SAINZ FINISHED THIRD
After Africa and South America, the legendary Dakar moves to Saudi Arabia, with 7800km of vast deserts and challenging terrain to endure for 12 days. The rally started from Jeddah and culminated in Qiddiyah. Defending champ Nasser Al-Attiyah, Spanish rally champ Carlos Sainz and Stephane Peterhansel entered the 2020 Dakar as legends in the car category. Meanwhile, KTM lined up at the start with a star-studded lineup including two-time winner Toby Price, and previous years’ winners Matthias Walkner and Sam Sunderland. Honda has come close to breaking the KTM winning streak in the past and this year was no different.
Lighter and more efficient – A winning formula
By only watching Sainz and Stephane ‘Mr Dakar’ Peterhansel charging through the gruelling desert and bone-shattering rocks, there is no way in hell you’d realise they’re running twowheel drive, diesel-powered Mini buggies. While Mr Dakar started the season with a second-place finish behind Vaidotas Zala, Sainz and co-driver Lucas Cruz finished third. The latest addition to the Dakar family was F1 driver Fernando Alonso hustling a Toyota GR Hilux, opening his account with an 11thplace finish.
Nasser’s TGR teammate Giniel De Villiers won the second stage with a four-minute lead over Orlando Terranova, where giants Nasser and Sainz fell to fifth and sixth place. However, with 350bhp and 770Nm at his disposal, Sainz was unstoppable, comfortably charging through the vagaries of the rally. This year, the Mini buggy was lighter, had a shorter front end and with Lucas Cruz’ precise navigation, Sainz was able to take the overall lead right from the third stage itself and held onto it till the end of the rally, taking his third Dakar victory. Although Nasser’s naturally aspirated V8-powered Hilux made more power and was all-wheel driven, Sainz and Peterhansel had the edge when it came to weight and fuel efficiency. In the twelve stages from Jeddah to Qiddiyah, Nasser was consistently in the top five but only won the last stage of the rally, fetching him the second place overall. Alonso proved that even though he was a first timer, the rookie tag was an understatement. The Spaniard put on a spectacular show in all the stages despite some navigation errors and a somersault in the tenth stage. He finished his debut Dakar at 13th place overall. Meanwhile, 13-time Dakar winner Peterhansel finished third overall after pressuring Nasser and Sainz on various occasions throughout the rally. Another notable competitor was a very fast Saudi local, Yazeed Al Rajhi, who finished fourth overall in his Overdrive Toyota Hilux.
Ending the 18-year winning streak
Tipping the scales at less than 140kg and churning out more than 60bhp, the Dakar motorcycles are a unique breed and so are their riders. With no protection in the form of roll cages, and nothing standing between them and the heat, cold, rain or whatever else the Dakar chooses to throw at them, they are certifiably crazy to be attempting the things they do.
Defending champion Toby Price was back in form and hopeful to grab another title for KTM. While he started off by winning the first stage, he immediately suffered setbacks starting from the stage two route to Neom where teammate Sam Sunderland took the lead. Sunderland did have a great run, with enough juice to close in on the top five, but his campaign was cut short after a crash in the fifth stage put him out of contention. Honda’s Ricky Brabec had incredible form this year aboard the 60bhp , 111kg CRF 450 Rally, climbing higher by the stage, and putting an end to KTM’s 18-year Dakar reign. A total of 16 minutes behind was Pablo Quintanilla from Husqvarna in second place overall while Price completed the podium.
The Indian teams Sherco TVS and Hero MotoSports had a respectable run. Sherco’s Adrien put immense effort into his campaign, finishing in 12th place overall. Both teammates Lorenzo Santolino and Johnny Aubert crashed out during the second half of the rally, while Harith Noah completed the rally under the Dakar Experience category despite a busted eye. Hero MotoSports’ Paulo Goncalves suffered a crash during the seventh stage, and succumbed to a cardiac arrest that followed. The Hero MotoSports team pulled out of the rally to grieve with Speedy’s family in the aftermath of this tragedy.
KAMAZ MASTER TRUCKS ARE POWERED BY A MONSTROUS 13-LITRE, 6-CYLINDER CUMMINS DIESEL ENGINE
Kamaz trucks conquer 2020 Dakar
As big as these trucks are, they are by no means slow. To be specific, the Russian Kamaz Master trucks weigh close to nine tonnes but are powered by a monstrous 13-litre, 6-cylinder Cummins diesel engine that produces more than a 1000bhp. The Kamaz Master trucks led the standings throughout the 12-day rally raid, with Anton Shibalov winning the opening stage. The rest of the stages were a battle for supremacy between Kamaz pilot Andrey Karginov and MAZ SportAuto’s Siarhei Viazovich. Siarhei, however, lost considerable time after the sixth stage till the end of the rally, forcing him to settle in third behind the Kamaz trucks. Andrey Karginov climbed up stage by stage, winning his second Dakar title with Anton in close tow, making it a 1-2 for the team. ⌧
Top: Ricky Brabec ends KTM’s winning streak. Left: Alonso does a minor fix after a major somersault over a dune
Facing page, top to bottom: Honda’s Ricky Brabec is the first American winner; stage seven checkpoint; Andrey Karginov crossaxling over a dune