Five-time winner Cyril Despres will be on the start line for his 20th Dakar Rally on January 5 with explorer and close friend Mike Horn by his side. The Frenchman is taking on an entirely new sportive challenge as he enters the side-by-side class in Saudi Arabia.

Here is all you need to know:

– The 2020 Dakar gets started on Sunday, January 5 in Jeddah and finishes 9,000km later on Friday, January 17 in Al-Qiddiya.

– 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.

– In 2020, he 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. The machine has 177 horsepower and 290Nm of torque provided by its FIA version 1000cc rear-mounted turbo engine.

– Alongside it being a new category and a new vehicle, Despres also has a new co-driver in the form of his friend, the world famous explorer Mike Horn.

– The South African-born Swiss is one of the world’s top adventurers. Last month he completed an epic trek across the Arctic Circle, covering around 1,800km in just a few months. Other notable trips include traversing the Amazon River on a hydrospeed board in 1997, an 18-month solo journey around the equator without using any motorised transport, and becoming the first man to travel without dogs or motorised transport to the North Pole during winter, in permanent darkness.

– Horn said: “I was stuck in the ice for a month, and now I’m heading to Jeddah. 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. 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.”

– Despres said: “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 OT3 and contributing to its future development. We’re all working hard to be as prepared as possible for the challenges we will meet at the Dakar. It’s still too early to know exactly where we are in terms of the competition we will face. We’ll take it stage by stage and concentrate on improving every day.”

– 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 with drivers Blade Hildebrand and Mitch Guthrie Jr. starting their rally careers also driving the OT3 in Saudi Arabia. Horn will provide tips on mental resilience, such an important aspect of international cross-country competition.

– Despres added: “The process of sharing advice has already began, 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.”

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