The 2020 Dakar Rally is here, and for the first time in the event’s history it’s being run in Saudi Arabia. And that means there’s a whole range of new experiences and questions awaiting this year’s competitors.
What’s certain though is that it’s going to be a hard fought battle for 12 days over a 7,800km course in some of the toughest terrain the world has to offer.
The event starts at 4pm Saturday 4th January 2020 local time in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia (11pm AEST/12pm AEDT) with the traditional podium presentation.
The first competitors – motorcycles – then leave Jeddah to begin Stage 1 at 4.15am the following morning and are expected to enter the first special stage at 7.20am. Stage 1 consists of 433km of liaison and a 319km special (timed) stage, ending in Al Wajh.
Five Australians are competing this year on bikes, headed up of course by last year’s winner, Toby Price.
Let’s find out a bit about these guys …
#1 – Toby Price (Red Bull KTM Factory Team / KTM 450 Rallye)
Toby is pretty much a household name in Australia, mostly due to his outstanding successes in off-road racing but also from his TV exposure as the face of the Mitsubishi Triton advertising campaigns.
Toby has won the Dakar twice in 2016 and 2019, and he’s known for his dogged determination and will to win. He won last year’s event with a broken wrist!
Toby’s first Dakar was in 2015 and despite successes at home he was relatively unknown in the Dakar field. However, he managed to make a name for himself by claiming 3rd place through his consistency during the event.
Toby came back in 2016 as part of the KTM factory team and claimed his first win, making him the first and only Australian to ever win the Dakar.
The following year was a shocker for Toby, crashing out on Stage 4 and badly breaking his leg, but a 3rd place in 2018 sent the message to the world that Toby was back on the path to glory.
In 2020, Toby has to be one of the favourites for a win!
#56 – Rodney Faggotter (Yamaha Motor Australia / Yamaha WR450F)
Rodney is no stranger to the Dakar having competed 5 times, but says – like many of the competitors – he has no knowledge of Saudi Arabia.
Rod grew up in the Queensland outback, and is a Yamaha dealer in Longreach. He rode last year as a part of the official Yamaha factory team with Xavier De Soultrait and Adrien Van Beveren, but mechanical issues took him out of the event in Stage 3.
This year he is competing as a privateer and his goal is firstly to finish, and then to finish in the top 10.
“I know I can manage a solid finish and would love to be in the Top 10, but I have to be realistic.”
#63 – Ben Young (DUUST Rally Team / KTM 450 Rally Replica)
Like Toby Price, Ben showed just how tough us Aussies can be in last year’s rally. In his first Dakar he crashed on day 5, wrapped a bandage around his injured hand and rode the remaining days of the event to finish and claim 51st place.
It was only when he arrived home that he – apparently under the instructions of his wife – had his hand x-rayed and found it was broken!
Ben owns a construction company and returns to the Dakar this year because he wanted to experience racing in Saudi Arabia. His race philosophy is to ignore the standings and battle it out against himself in the most spectacular scenery.
#143 – Matthew Tisdall (GDP Group, Bas Dakar / KTM 450 RALLY)
This is Matthew’s first attempt at the Dakar and says he fell in love with the event a bit by accident. While on a family trip in South America during 2009, he discovered the Dakar in Mendoza and thought it was “pretty interesting”.
Matthew bought his first dirt-bike only 6 years ago and competed in the Finke Desert. He has since raced in the Baja Rally, Rally Du Maroc, and several editions of the Moroccan Desert Challenge.
In 2019 he competed in the Africa Eco Race and finished without complications. It was then that team manager Patsy Quick, a former Dakar competitor herself, encouraged him to race in the Dakar.
His goal is to finish without looking at the results, but he’s concerned it might become addictive!
#158 – Trevor Wilson (Godspeed Racing / Husqvarna FR 450 Rally)
Trevor is also a rookie in the 2020 Dakar, but has prepared for this event for many years.
Originally a school teacher in Brisbane, Trevor changed his whole life when the Dakar bug bit. He left his teaching career, and started giving volunteer talks in schools and prisons inspiring students to reach for the seemingly impossible. He travelled to Peru in 2018 to learn how to race, and then started on the long and hard training sessions required to prepare for the Dakar.
“My dream was to be on the start line and I have that picture in my mind. Now I have to see what’s within me. It’s completely unknown but of course the goal is finishing.”
“This journey to the start line has been one of the best experiences of my life. In the large open spaces, a part of me becomes alive!”