Sainz, Alonso, Barreda ... The Spanish victory options in the Dakar 2020

On January 5, the 42nd edition of the toughest rally in the world starts in Saudi Arabia, the Dakar, a test that changes the scene, from South America to the Middle East, and which, according to its creators, preserves the combative spirit that always characterized the race. There will be 12 stages (with an average of 450 kilometers fighting the stopwatch) in which the pilots will have to face very different surfaces: dunes, canyons, mountains, broken terrain ... Navigation will be another factor to consider when looking for the mandatory waypoints following the directions of the road books (which are delivered to the co-drivers just before leaving), because GPS is something that cannot be used and for that all cars will carry interior cameras that will control live compliance with the standard. In addition, the pilot and co-pilot mobile phones will be housed in a sealed box in the vehicle itself that the commissioners will be able to open once the stage is over. With this type of measures they seek that there is no one who can have an advantage when choosing a route or another.

A total of 565 participants will take part in the race, either as pilots or navigators, and another 2,500 will be part of the caravan among mechanics, assistance personnel, doctors, helicopter pilots, logistics, etc. Carlos Sainz starts as a favorite to victory in the category of cars at the controls of a Mini (it has nothing to do with a Street Mini because it is a buggie developed by a private team that has the support of the brand and the body has some feature similar to the series cars) and this time the chassis and the engine have an evolution supervised by the Madrid driver himself since last year, which surely has given the car ample room for improvement. His direct rivals will be, on the one hand, his own partner, Stephane Peterhansel (the driver who has won the Dakar 13 times, both on motorcycles and cars), and Toyota's Navy with the Hilux and its main asset, the current winner, the Qatari Nasser Al-Attiyah and the specialist Giniel de Villers, whose Spanish navigator is Álex Haro. The third Hilux will be conducted by Fernando Alonso, who debuts in the race after several months of preparation, a few tests and three raids, with which his main objective is to finish the race. Setting another goal would be crazy and this is stated by those who know this test full of traps and that requires a lot of experience.

With the best car, but ...

The Spaniard has experienced a great improvement since he carried out the first trials, but adapting to a test of these characteristics is something that is not done overnight. And much less he, who comes from the circuits, because if he did it from the world of rallies it would be something else, although the most recent case is that of Sebastien Loeb, the most successful pilot in this specialty, who after four editions could not Get the victory. Paradoxically, the Spaniard competes with one of the best cars and the best material, something he lacked in the F-1 in recent years.

Other Spaniards who are at the starting line are Nani Roma, Óscar Fuertes, Cristina Gutiérrez or the television station Jesús Calleja. On motorcycles, another Spanish starts as a favorite to victory: Joan Barreda, who will be Honda's main asset against the KTM legion commanded by Tobi Price, winner in 2019. As always, the Dakar will be a race in which to temper the Nerves will be key and in which it will count a lot to be able to "smell" the ditches and traps, and know how to choose when to run a lot or keep up the pace so as not to suffer any setback. And in that there are two teachers in this edition: Peterhansel and Sainz.


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