Red Bull Off-Road Team USA win stage on Dakar debut
January 8, 2020
Al Ula, Saudi Arabia
It has only taken four days of racing for Red Bull Off-Road Team USA and their OT3 by Overdrive to hit the front at their first ever Dakar Rally. Setting the pace along the 453-kilometre timed special stage in Saudi Arabia was Mitch Guthrie Jr. (USA) and his co-driver Ola Floene (NOR).
After impressing in the first three stages of his Dakar debut, Guthrie Jr. decided to pick up the pace on today’s route between Neom and Al Ula. After successfully avoiding the many pitfalls on the stage, the American driver put his foot down over the last 100 kilometres of the course to set the fastest time of the day.
“This was the longest day we’ve had so far for sure. It felt like all the previous three stages put together. It was really, really rough and rocky.” – Mitch Guthrie Jr.
Off the back of Guthrie Jr.’s result he moved his OT3 machine up to sixth place in the side-by-side overall standings. The Dakar debutant is now just 30 minutes behind race leader Jose Antonio Hinojo Lopez (ESP) with eight stages still to raced at the 2020 Dakar Rally.
As they continue in Dakar Experience category there was another eventful day for the crew of Blade Hildebrand (USA) and co-driver François Cazalet (FRA). Since yesterday Hildebrand has been participating as a Dakar Experience driver, a new class at the Dakar that excludes competitors from the general classification but allows them to re-enter the race after retiring from a previous stage.
Hildebrand made a strong start to Stage 4 and was among the quickest SxS drivers on the route at the midway point. However, misfortune struck during the neutralisation section of the stage when a civilian’s car struck Hildebrand’s OT3 on the road section. Significant damage was sustained to the vehicle’s steering mechanism which hampered his progress over the remaining kilometres. Hilderbrand eventually scored the ninth fastest time of all SxSs on the stage.
“Entering the liaison I make a left and a car just T-boned me. The impact wrecked the steering and I had to do the last 250 kilometres with pretty much no steering.” – Blade Hildebrand
The coaching crew of Cyril Despres (FRA) and Mike Horn (SUI) were handed an extra rest day as their OT3 was worked on by the mechanics in order to rejoin the rally on Stage 5. Despite being off the race track, the coaches have been able to work with Mitch and Blade before and after today’s stage as the young drivers’ accelerated rally-raid education continues.
“I recognise in Mitch a very fluid style of driving, which is similar to myself. He analyses where he is putting his wheels.” – Cyril Despres
Tomorrow brings with it Stage 5 and those who remain in the Dakar convoy will be plunged deep into the dunes. Huge descents over desert grass will test each and every competitor as they tackle the 353-kilometres timed special stage between Al Ula and Ha’il.
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2020 Dakar Rally Side-by-side Race (after Stage 4)
1. Jose Antonio Hinojo Lopez (ESP) Can-Am 18h24m52s
2. Chaleco Lopez (CHI) Can-AM +03m01s
3. Casey Currie (USA) Can-Am +04m34s
6. Mitch Guthrie Jr. (USA) OT3 +30m21s
Mitch Guthrie Jr.: “This was the longest day we’ve had so far for sure. It felt like all the previous three stages put together. It was really, really rough and rocky. The big thing today was to avoid flats. Right off the bat everybody was having issues with flats, even double flats. I really don’t know how they’re going to make it to the end because the stage was so crazy.”
“Me and Ola didn’t really make any mistakes today. We just kept pushing while people around us kept getting flats. We were getting by people and setting a really good pace. When we hit the last 100 kilometres after the refuel we were able to keep the pace up. Shout out to BFGoodrich because our tyres held together really well on a really rough day.”
Blade Hildebrand: “Today I thought I was going to have a very, very good day and it’s still good because I got to the finish. For the first part of the stage we had an absolutely flawless run. No rocks hit, no nothing hit. Then entering the liaison I make a left and a car just T-boned me. The impact wrecked the steering and I had to do the last 250 kilometres with pretty much no steering.”
“The track was super rocky. When you’ve got steering that just keeps locking up you end up going straight into rock piles. I had two flat tyres. It was a long day. I managed to bring it to the end and I’m happy just to be able to do that considering what shape we were in.”
Cyril Despres: “When I first saw these young drivers I had the chance to show them around Morocco. They were beside me in the car. After this I let them drive and we made a few laps. I have an idea of how to behave when you come across a rock, bump, tree or riverbed for example on a Dakar stage. What I can say is that there are two different types of personalities that drivers have; there’s those that go steady, like I did, and those that are harder on the brake and the throttle.”
“I recognise in Mitch a very fluid style of driving, which is similar to myself. He analyses where he is putting his wheels. In my experience of the Dakar, there are different ways to race the Dakar and different ways to win a Dakar. I think that my style is very close to what Mitch is doing and I can keep helping him with this.”
Mike Horn: “The key thing is how you approach each day. I think Mitch is approaching his day with a lot of self-control and discipline. This is definitely going to be an advantage over a longer race like the Dakar. If we’re going to help these young people we need to look at what they’re doing each day. This is obviously going to be strongly connected to what results they will get.”
“To be able to approach the race with more of a long term plan gives you the methods of doing things day by day to get to the end. At the moment Mitch is in the competition and Blade is not, and this changes the attitude. The attitude of competing for a podium and the attitude of competing just to get experience. Those are two attitudes we have in the team now and there is so much to learn on both of those paths.”