Red Bull Off-Road Team USA deliver bold performance on debut Dakar Rally
January 17, 2020
Qiddiya, Saudi Arabia
Red Bull Off-Road Team USA have climbed a steep learning curve at the 2020 Dakar Rally. On their debut Dakar the team came out fastest on half of the side-by-side stages as they laid the foundations for more success to come.
The highs and lows came thick and fast for the squad as they balanced back-to-back 1-2 finishes on Stages 9 and 10 with the heartbreak of early retirements. Crossing the finish line for the team in Qiddiya gave Blade Hildebrand (USA) the chance to reflect on an eventful fortnight in Saudi Arabia.
“It feels good to cross the line of Stage 12. Day one seems so far away now. 12 days of racing later and we’re finally here. I’ll remember my first stage win of this Dakar on Stage 7 forever.” – Blade Hildebrand
Blade, alongside co-driver Francois Cazalet (FRA), was able to run at the front of numerous stages at this Dakar. Despite running into mechanical trouble more often than they would have liked, the crew will leave the Middle East with a lot of good memories from the rally.
“I think we’ve made some good achievements in this adventure. We’ve won stages and so have the other guys in the team. We’re proud of the work we’ve done here.” – Francois Cazalet
Blade and Francois’s OT3 by Overdrive was the only Red Bull Off-Road Team USA car to make it to the finish line of the 2020 Dakar. Team-mates Mitch Guthrie Jr. (USA) and Ola Floene (NOR) may have withdrawn on the penultimate stage, but they can still reflect on a positive Dakar debut. Guthrie Jr. went quickest on a total of three stages and was in contention for the overall podium at the midpoint Rest Day in Riyadh.
“We’ve been able to improve the performance of the car. Increasing the performance of a car is the most difficult thing you can do so we must be proud of the improvements we have made in these two weeks.” – Jean Marc Schmit, OT3 Technical Director
There’s also been the involvement of the coaching and mentoring crew of Cyril Despres (FRA) and Mike Horn (SUI). Not only did Cyril make history by becoming the first Dakar competitor to win stages in three different categories (bike, car and SxS), but Mike read the roadbook for a stage win on his Dakar debut!
Cyril and Mike have also been full of wisdom for Blade, Francois, Mitch and Ola. The guidance of the senior members of the team has helped forge a great spirit within the camp. This was in evidence when Cyril and Mike donated their engine so Mitch and Ola could continue their rally in the Dakar Experience class alongside Blade and Francois.
“We’re already looking forward to next year. The terrain that we’ve raced on in Saudi Arabia makes me excited to come back. I know the whole team feels the same way.” – Jean Marc Fortin, Overdrive CEO
There’s plenty more to come from Red Bull Off-Road Team USA as they target further races this year. Stay in touch by subscribing to the Red Bull Off-Road Junior Program newsletter, our distribution service for inside stories covering our Red Bull rally-raid athletes.
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2020 Dakar Rally Side-by-side Race Stage 12 Top 3
1. Reinaldo Varela (BRA)/Gustavo Gugelmin (BRA) Can-Am 01h36m19s
2. Blade Hildebrand (USA)/Francois Cazalet (FRA) OT3 +24s
3. Austin Jones (USA)/Kellon Walch (USA) Can-Am +03m18s
Blade Hildebrand: “It feels good to cross the line of Stage 12. Day one seems so far away now. 12 days of racing later and we’re finally here. In the end it was only our car that made it all the way. It sucks that the other two couldn’t be here. It does give me a sense of pride though that we pushed through and made all 12 days. I’ve also got the chance to cheer on the other Red Bull guys as they come in.”
“There’s still a lot work to go into this program to get it to where we want it to be, but there were lots of positive steps at this Dakar. We showed in the second week that we can win stages and we’ve learned a lot for future races. I’ll remember my first stage win of this Dakar on Stage 7 forever.”
Francois Cazalet: “It was an incredible experience. The main goal of this adventure was for us to discover the Dakar together. It was the second one for Blade and the first one for me. I think we’ve made some good achievements in this adventure. We’ve won stages and so have the other guys in the team. We are proud of the work we’ve done here. Now we want another race to have a good result and show everybody that not only are we fast, but we are also able to bring the car to the end of a major rally.”
“The car is still young with only a few months of development and testing before arriving at the Dakar. These 12 stages were a big test and there have been many, many lessons for the team here. No doubt the team have learned so much from hearing our experiences on the stages each day. Now is the time to increase the level of performance of this car.”
Jean Marc Fortin, Overdrive CEO: “We’ve been discovering a new country and been made to feel very welcome. We’ve been pleased with the potential that the team has shown in these two weeks. Otherwise I’m happy that we’ve been able to play our part in this new chapter for the Dakar Rally.”
“We’re already looking forward to next year. The terrain that we’ve raced on in Saudi Arabia makes me excited to come back. I know the whole team feels the same way. The performance of Blade and Mitch has surprised me, they were able to beat some really experienced drivers when they won those stages. It’s a really promising start to the program.”
Jean Marc Schmit, OT3 Technical Director: “Even if we do not show up in the official results, I think we did a good job. We achieved a part of the target that we set ourselves for this Dakar. We’ve been able to improve the performance of the car. Increasing the performance of a car is the most difficult thing you can do so we must be proud of the improvements we have made in these two weeks.”
“It’s a good start to the project and we must continue to work positively to carry on these improvements in the future. We’ve seen previously that the Dakar is such a difficult race to introduce a new car. Many of these new projects do not achieve a stage win in their first year. We’ve set the quickest time on six stage wins and that’s a good job by everybody.”