The hardest race in the world will have its Saudi Arabian debut next Sunday the fifth of January and run until the 17th of the same month. Here we take a look at the most likely 5 favourites to win the Dakar 2020.
Among the list of possibble winners one name stands out above the rest: that of current champion Nasser Al-Attiyah. As the leader of the strongest team on the grid, the Toyota GAZOO Racing, the driver from Qatar is the n°1 rival to beat. Part of that same squad, and also a shining candidate is the Belgian Giniel de Villiers.
The Spaniard Carlos Sainz and the French star Stephane Peterhansel, teammates at the X-Raid team, will also take centre stage in the battle for glory. Also, Catalan driver Nani Roma could surprise everyone with his new scuderia: Borgward. In this race, anything can happen.
Al-Attiyah: To defend the title at home
After taking home his second crown in 2019, Nasser Al-Attiyah hopes to hold onto it for another year. He is not only one of the fastest on the grid and
will be driving an updated version of the Hilux, which had become quite unruly lately. He will also have the invaluable support of co-pilot Matthieu Baumel.
Nasser has taken part in all the twelve editions of the raid since 2004 and has won three titles (2011, 2015 and 2019), three second places (2010, 2016 and 2018) and one third place (2014). It is because of all of those successes that he leads the list of the favourites to win the Dakar 2020.
Carlos Sainz: Skill, experience & quality
Looking at driving skills alone, Carlos Sainz is one of the best. The twice champion’s (2010, 2018) main challenge will be defeating the Toyotas. He will also be trying to push back the oldest winner record (which he earned two years ago) from 55 to 57 years old. To his right will be co-pilot Lucas Cruz.
His Mini John Cooper Works Buggy, for which this will be the third appearance in the raid, seems to have undergone a considerable performance leap as compared to 2018 and 2019.
On top of that, the Buggy’s body has been shortened a few centimetres in order to batter tackle the dunes, all of which make it one of the favourite vehicles of the Dakar.
Taking part in the Dakar since 2012 – with the exception of 2015 – Sainz has earned two titles over 12 races (2006 – 2014, 2016 – 2019) of the legendary raid. Of course, the Spaniard couple is one of the favourites to win the Dakar 2020.
Peterhansel: Without his wife as co-pilot
Stèphane Peterhanse is always one of the prime candidates to uncork the champagne. Nicknamed ‘Monsieur Dakar‘, he is the most successful Dakar driver of all times with a total of thirteen trophies, six of them on a motorcycle (1991-1993, 1995, 1997-1998, all of them with Yamaha) and seven in a car (2004, 2005, 2007, 2012, 2013, 2016, 2017).
This year he will be driving an identical machine to that of Sainz for the X-Raid team. The only thing dampening Peterhansel’s chances is the absence of his co-pilot and wife Andrea Mayer due to health issues.
A great disappointment which could also reduce his chances of success. She will be replaced by Portuguese Paulo Fiuza.
Nani Roma: New project
Nani Roma tackles this new project onboard an unknown Borgward BX7 DKR EVO. If the car is not up to scratch, the Catalan could still compensate with his great quality as a racer. His very rational driving style tends to yield great results.
Also, racing without the pressure of the spotlight and with new co-pilot, Dani Oliveras, could play in his favour. The driver from Folgarolas won in the motorcycling category (KTM) in 2004 and ten years later he won with a Mini, Manufacturer with which he was second again last year.
He has participated with a motorbike in eight occasions (1996, 1998-2004) and with a car in fourteenth (2005-2007, 2009-2019).
Giniel de Villiers: Why not?
Overshadowed by the size of his head of ranks in Toyota, Nasser Al-Attiyah, Giniel de Villiers could turn all of the forecasts upside down. With 16 consecutive participations (2003-2007, 2009-2019) and a victory in 2009, he could be the one to break through to the first positions of the Dakar 2020.
If anyone has any doubt it suffices to say that over the last fourth editions, he has managed three podiums (2015, 2016 and 2018). The South African in not in the list of the favourites to win the Dakar 2020.
Images of ‘Favourites to win the Dakar 2020′: Carlos Sainz Twitter.