Posted on January 02, 2020

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