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Al Attiyah is firm favourite as the race is on at the 2020 Dakar Rally across the sands of Saudi Arabia

Nasser Saleh Al Attiyah

Bengaluru, January 5: Qatar's defending champion Nasser Saleh Al Attiyah is the firm favourite yet again as the 42nd Dakar Rally begins in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on Sunday (January 5).

The excitement in Jeddah since the Dakar Rally arrived has been non-stop. From the pre-race technical checks at the impressive King Abdulaziz Stadium to the party atmosphere of the Saturday (January 4) night Start Podium at the Dakar Village on the shores of the Red Sea.

The Dakar has come to the Middle East from its first home in Africa, via a magical decade in South America.

The motorsports' ultimate test of endurance has invigorated everybody - from multiple champions to rookie racers.

Now offroaders in 83 cars, 144 bikes, 46 side-by-sides, 46 trucks and 23 quads will tackle perilous terrain and test their skills to the limit. All of this will happen in a new country, as Saudi Arabia becomes the 30th nation to host the truly international Dakar Rally.

Desert racers have come from all over the world to test themselves against the world's toughest rally. On Sunday, the first stage of 2020 Dakar takes competitors a mammoth 752 kilometres as they leave Jeddah and head north to Al Wajh.

Defending champion

Defending champion

With French navigator Matthieu Baumel at the wheel of their now-famous Toyota Hilux, Al Attiyah, who has won the gruelling off-road rally three times in the last eight years, has been on great form during recent years.

A dune-driving natural, it is hard not to see the Qatari challenging for a fourth Dakar title in the sands across Saudi Arabia.

Dream come true

Dream come true

"I would like to thank everybody who has made it possible to bring the Dakar to the Middle East. I've now won the Dakar three times and I'll be going all out to win a fourth.

"It has long been a dream of mine to see the Dakar come to this region. I hope everybody will enjoy this race," said Al Attiyah who triumphed in 2011, 2015 and 2019.

Peterhansel's challenge

Peterhansel's challenge

One of Al Attiyah's main title challengers will be the husband and wife team of Stephane (France) and Andrea Peterhansel (Germany. The duo will be seen behind the wheels of all-new MINI John Cooper Works Buggy.

"Twenty five years ago I came to Saudi Arabia for a motorcycle race and I remember beautiful landscapes. I also came back here last year for a two-day Baja race and the open desert was really impressive. I've no doubt we'll have a very interesting race here in Saudi Arabia," said Peterhansel, who has won the Dakar a record 13 times and is eyeing his first with wife on board.

Alonso's debut

Alonso's debut

The Dakar Rally 2020 will also see the debut of Spain's two-time Formula One world champion Fernando Alonso making his debut as he will be seen behind the wheels of a V-8-powered Toyota Hilux with compatriot Marc Coma as his co-driver.

The duo had finished third in the recent Al Ula Neom Cross-Country Rally in Saudi and will be hoping to build on it.

(With Red Bull Media inputs)

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Story first published: Sunday, January 5, 2020, 8:28 [IST]
Other articles published on Jan 5, 2020
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