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!


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 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

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