5-time Dakar winner Cyril Despres teams up with explorer Mike Horn for Saudi Arabian adventure
January 2, 2020
Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
The Dakar would not be the same without legendary competitor Cyril Despres, and the five-time winner will be on the start-line for his 20th edition of the rally on January 5. The multiple Dakar bike race winner, as well as two-time Silk Way Rally car category champion, is taking on an entirely new sportive challenge as he enters the side-by-side class in 2020.
Ever since crowdfunding his first participation at the Dakar in 2000, through to his success with KTM and Peugeot, the Frenchman has been feeling the need for speed and navigation. Now he’s getting ready to race his 20th Dakar and his appetite for adventure remains as big as ever. Especially with the double mission Despres is setting himself this time; mentoring and coaching Red Bull Off-Road Team USA in addition to racing the world’s toughest rally.
“I’m enjoying life, enjoying racing and enjoying giving something back to a sport that has given me so much.” – Cyril Despres
Despres will race the OT3 by Overdrive in Saudi Arabia, the first prototype side-by-side (SxS) machine ever built specifically for global off-road racing. With 177 horsepower and 290Nm of torque provided by its FIA version 1000cc rear-mounted turbo engine, Despres has a serious machine in his hands.
“We’re going to have fun at this Dakar, the OT3 is such a fun vehicle to drive. I’m looking forward to getting the most out of the specially built prototype and contributing to its future development.” – Cyril Despres
It’s a new category, a new vehicle and a new challenge for Despres at the 2020 Dakar – it’s also going to be a new co-driver! Despres will race in Saudi Arabia alongside his inspirational friend, the world famous explorer Mike Horn.
“I was stuck in the ice for a month, and now I’m heading to Jeddah. For the first time, the Dakar Rally is in Saudi Arabia and I’m doing it with a very good friend of mine, Cyril Despres.” – Mike Horn
Horn’s adventurous life has seen him complete amazing feats, such as an 18-month solo journey around the equator without using any motorised transport. Horn is also the first man to travel without dogs or transport to the North Pole during winter, in permanent darkness.
Last month the South African-born Swiss explorer reaffirmed his place as the world’s top adventurer after completing an epic trek across the Arctic Circle. Horn covered around 1,800km in just a few months alongside Børge Ousland of Norway despite running dangerously low on supplies. It’s the latest in a long line of stunning achievements Horn has recorded since he traversed the Amazon River on a hydrospeed board back in 1997. Now the world’s ultimate adventurer is getting ready for the biggest challenge motorsport has to offer, the Dakar Rally.
“This is a unique opportunity to learn while participating. If you don’t become part of the adventure, then you do not know what you’re talking about. To be able to participate means you’re emotionally and intellectually involved in what is happening.” – Mike Horn
For Despres and Horn, this new adventure doesn’t start and stop on the 12 or 13 challenging special stages of the 2020 Dakar. Despres is a coach and mentor to the recently launched Red Bull Off-Road Junior Program. In this capacity, the Frenchman will be offering guidance and support to the Red Bull Off-Road Team USA drivers, also racing OT3s at the upcoming Dakar.
With two decades of experience of top level competition, Despres has a wealth of knowledge he can pass on to Blade Hildebrand and co-driver François Cazalet as well as Mitch Guthrie Jr. and his co-driver Ola Floene as they begin their rally-raid careers. Horn will also provide tips on mental resilience, such an important aspect during the most extreme Motorsports race on the planet.
“The process of sharing advice has already begun, but there is still some important information to give them. I’m waiting until we’re racing the Dakar to tell them certain things because we don’t want to overload them right now.” – Cyril Despres
“As an observer and as a participant, I think I have a lot of value to add to coaching the young people into methods and ways of doing things in a more sustainable way.” – Mike Horn
Despres has proven himself to be fierce competitor time and time again. Bike wins at the Dakar spread across Europe, Africa and South America (2005, 2007, 2010, 2012 & 2013) and car race wins at the Silk Way (2016 & 2017) have seen him conquer two rally-raid categories. Now the Frenchman will be going all out to master a third category when he races his SxS machine alongside Horn in Saudi Arabia this coming January.
The 2020 Dakar gets started on Sunday, January 5 in Jeddah and finishes 9,000km later on Friday, January 17 in Al-Qiddiya. Keep up-to-date with the entire Red Bull Desert Wings convoy on Red Bull Motorsports’ social media: Red Bull Motorsport Instagram / Facebook / Twitter / Desert Wings Instagram
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Cyril Despres: “I’m not chasing any records right now. I’m enjoying life, enjoying racing and enjoying giving something back to a sport that has given me so much. Of course I’ll be out to give my best possible performance. All in all, we’re going to have fun at this Dakar, the OT3 is such a fun vehicle to drive. I’m looking forward to getting the most out of the specially built prototype OT3 and contributing to its future development. I see this as another way I can help the youngsters of Red Bull Off-Road Team USA, by helping to improve the OT3.
“I wouldn’t say that our new team has any specific targets right now. We’re all working hard to be as prepared as possible for the challenges we will meet at the Dakar. We’ve worked on the suspension, BFGoodrich have provided us with some great tyres and the package has really come together well. It’s still too early to know exactly where we are in terms of the competition we will face. We’ll take it stage by stage and concentrate on improving every day.
“The drivers of Red Bull Off-Road Team USA have a great opportunity. I’m older than them and have lots of experience I can share. The process of sharing advice has already began, but there is still some important information to give them. I’m waiting until we’re racing the Dakar to tell them certain things because we don’t want to overload them right now.
“There’s lots of ways I can help the drivers in the Red Bull Off-Road Team USA. I had so many questions when I first started my racing career. What is the right speed to go? How should the suspension be adjusted? What should I wear? How can I conserve my energy during a stage? The list is endless and I can answer these questions for this young generation of drivers.
“I’ve been with the young guns in Morocco, France and the USA, showing them how to identify the dangers that exist in rally-raid. I’ve been in the OT3 with them all, sometimes I’ll drive and sometimes them. This way I pass on my tips and observe anything that needs to be worked on. These are all talented drivers who have already achieved a lot, but rally-raid is new and there are things they can learn.”
Mike Horn: “I’ve just crossed the Polar Ocean – I left from Nome, Alaska, with my sailboat, sailed up to 85 degrees North, got off the boat and covered a distance of 1,550km to cross the Polar Ocean from boat to boat. My life as an explorer takes me to different fields, and now it’s taking me to the Dakar. It’s something new to me. But as an observer and as a participant, I think I have a lot of value to add to coaching the young people into methods and ways of doing things in a more sustainable way.
“I was stuck in the ice for a month, and now I’m heading to Jeddah. For the first time, the Dakar Rally is in Saudi Arabia and I’m doing it with a very good friend of mine, Cyril Despres. He has supported me through years of exploration, and I’ve been there for him when he was still driving the Dakar on a bike. We have a relationship that we don’t often see each other, but we always support each other. In life, if you have support, you can do anything.
“I think change is important. My specialisation is coaching, observing. To be able, with Cyril, to use the knowledge of both our worlds, the world of exploration and the world of motorsport, to train and guide the younger generation in new methods of doing motorsport – in a more sustainable manner.
“This is a unique opportunity to learn while participating. If you don’t become part of the adventure, then you do not know what you’re talking about. To be able to participate means you’re emotionally and intellectually involved in what is happening. To be able to make changes, you need to be able to understand what actually happens while these guys are driving through the desert. And to be able to learn from it is what I love in life.”