Red Bull Off-Road Team USA rocks the Rest Day at 2020 Dakar Rally
January 11, 2020
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Back-to-back stage wins at the 2020 Dakar Rally have been the rewards of a challenging first week for the Red Bull Off-Road Junior Program in Saudi Arabia. The team’s debut drive at the world’s toughest rally has now reached the halfway mark and more success on the remaining six desert stages is the target.
The first ever stage win by the all new OT3 by Overdrive was picked up on day four of the Dakar. It will be a day Dakar rookie Mitch Guthrie Jr. (USA) will never forget as he won his first stage at motorsports’ ultimate test of endurance.
Guthrie Jr., alongside co-driver Ola Floene (NOR), arrived in Riyadh for the Rest Day placed fifth in the general classification of the side-by-side contest. The American racer is less than 20 minutes off the overall podium and his motivation is huge to push for the best result possible at his Dakar debut.
“It was all super exciting to get a stage win at my first rally, I was happy to get that under my belt. I’ve heard it’ll be 70 percent dunes in the second week so that sounds good. I’m happy with where we’re at coming into the rest day.” – Mitch Guthrie Jr.
Following Guthrie Jr.’s win on Stage 4, it was the coaching crew of Cyril Despres (FRA) and Mike Horn (SUI) who stepped up on Stage 5. Despres and Horn were forced to exit the general classification on Stage 3 due to mechanical issues and missed out on Stage 4 while their OT3 underwent repairs. The team’s mentors then showed incredible mental resilience by bouncing back from a series of difficult opening stages to set the pace on day five.
“The win on Stage 5 was an amazing feeling. We’d left the race at the back of the pack and then we came back to fight our way to the front.” – Mike Horn
The elder statesmen of Red Bull Off-Road Team USA are now on a mission to get the most out of their side-by-side OT3 during the second week of Dakar, while advising their team-mates on how to do the same.
“I’ve been impressed by the performance of Mitch and Blade. The dunes have not been easy and they’ve done great. Mike and me have seen them in action out on the stage and they’ve both been handling it well.” – Cyril Despres
Blade Hildebrand (USA) joins Despres and Horn in the Dakar Experience category after a forced retirement from the overall standings on Stage 2. Since then, the reigning OP.1 class champion has been a consummate team player. Hildebrand and co-driver Francois Cazalet (FRA) played their part in all OT3s finishing inside the Top 10 on Stage 6. Now they’re chasing more good days for the group on the 4,000 kilometres that still stand between themselves and the finish line.
“I think the next goal we can have in the second week is to get a 1-2-3 result on a stage. We’re on the right track towards this for sure. The team is in a happy mood, that’s what a few good stage results will do. The hard work doesn’t stop and the sky’s the limit for what we can achieve together.” – Blade Hildebrand
As well as the OT3s getting a complete tune-up on the Rest Day, race fans were also invited to meet the team in the Riyadh bivouac. Tomorrow sees the action switch to the six desert stages still to be navigated in Saudi Arabia. An early start beckons on Sunday as the rally gets back underway with a monstrous 546-kilometre special stage that takes the convoy to Wadi Al-Dawasir.
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2020 Dakar Rally Side-by-side Race (after Stage 6)
1. Chaleco Lopez/Juan Pablo Latrach Vinagre (CHI) (CHI) Can-Am 28h52m26s
2. Casey Currie (USA)/Sean Berriman (USA) Can-Am +09m48s
3. Sergei Kariakin (RUS)/Anton Vlasiuk (RUS) Can-Am +30m24s
4. Jose Antonio Hinojo Lopez (ESP)/Diego Ortega Gil (ESP) Can-Am +36m31s
5. Mitch Guthrie Jr. (USA)/Ola Floene (NOR) OT3 +47m49s
Cyril Despres (FRA)/Mike Horn (SUI) OT3 – Dakar Experience
Blade Hildebrand (USA)/Francois Cazalet (FRA) OT3 – Dakar Experience
Mitch Guthrie Jr.: “This is my first rally ever so it took the opening few days to really get used to this whole type of racing. On Stage 3 I could feel the rhythm coming and then on Stage 4 we ended up with the win. That was so cool. It was all super exciting to get a stage win at my first rally, I was happy to get that under my belt.”
“On Stage 5 we struggled a bit, but on Stage 6 we had another really good day. It was like the Glamis sand dunes back home out there. I was having a ton of fun with Ola, I was telling him that the terrain was just like back home. I’ve heard it’ll be 70 percent dunes in the second week so that sounds good. I’m happy with where we’re at coming into the rest day.
Cyril Despres: “Just in this first week we’ve been able to progress so much on the car. The last two days have been good for all three OT3s. I’ve been impressed by the performance of Mitch and Blade. The dunes have not been easy and they’ve both done really well. Mike and me have seen them in action out on the stage and they’ve both been handling it well.”
“We had a problem with the intercom on Stage 6, but we coped with it. I’ve been cruising dunes at the Dakar in big cars before now. In the side-by-side the pace is below what I’ve driven before so this makes reading the dunes easier.”
Mike Horn: “The win on Stage 5 was an amazing feeling. We’d left the race at the back of the pack and then we came back to fight our way to the front. I felt on Stage 6 that myself and Cyril could really get to understand each other. With the intercom broken we needed to communicate however we could.”
“Taking into the account the amount of experience I have in reading a roadbook I think we’ve done well. Especially when I have to get across the information using my hands because we can’t hear each other. When we get the intercom back things will only get better from here. Overall we’re happy. We’re not in the general classification, but we’re here to try and win a couple more stages.”
Blade Hildebrand: “It feels like in these last couple of stages before the Rest Day I’ve finally got the monkey off my back. Hopefully the bad luck I had at the beginning of this rally is now behind me. Having all three cars in the Top 10 on Stage 6 is a great way to reach the halfway point.”
“I think the next goal we can have in the second week is to get a 1-2-3 result on a stage. We’re on the right track towards this for sure. The team is in a happy mood, that’s what a few good stage results will do. The hard work doesn’t stop and the sky’s the limit for what we can achieve together.”
Jean Marc Fortin, Overdrive CEO: “We’ve comeback strong in this first week of the Dakar. Mitch made a fantastic stage when we won and Cyril did the same on Stage 5. We’ve been seeing on the split times that we’re very competitive. On the last stage before the Rest Day we had all three OT3s inside the Top 10. Mitch is P5 overall and is still in the game for the podium.”
“We also need to remember that seven days ago the OT3 had never driven a Dakar stage. Now we see that the performance has been there on the last three stages. The car is still young, but it’s showing a big potential.”
Jean Marc Schmit, OT3 Technical Director: “We knew before coming to this Dakar that it would be a difficult exercise. To assess things at the halfway point, the most important piece of information is that we still have three cars on the track. Now we’ll work hard to keep going until the end. This entire rally is a fantastic opportunity to test our new vehicle in the toughest conditions you can find for racing.”
“Our job here is to use all the new information we collect on each stage to help us improve the package. Something we have in this team is a mix of ages. We have the power of the young guys and the experience of the older guys. When we blend these two attributes together we can achieve great things.”