2020 Dakar Rally Preview: The Americans are Coming!

When Thierry Sabine returned from visiting the Baja 1000 and spending time hanging out with Sal Fish, he created what we know as the 13 day multi stage off-road battle known as Dakar. Thierry’s vision brought racers from around the globe to compete in the ultimate off-road race, and American legends like Robby Gordon and Chuck Stearns have taken stage victories, but no American has come close to winning the event outright. 2020, however, boasts one of the deepest lineups of American racers yet—here’s a look at which racers will carry the stars and stripes in Saudi Arabia this month:

Jimco Racing

Racing business maverick and Jimco Racing owner Robbie Pierce is teamed up with off-road newcomer Bobby Patton. If you’re a baseball fan, you probably know Bobby is one of the primary owners of the Los Angeles Dodgers and pilot of the Jimco “Fastball” Spec TT Hellion. They are headed to Dakar primarily to learn with plans to return on 2021 with a Jimco built vehicle. The duo will be piloting an Overdrive Racing Toyota Hilux in their Dakar debut.

Casey Currie

Monster Energy Can-Am Team | Dakar Rally

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Posted by Monster Energy on Saturday, December 28, 2019

Off-road racing champion Casey Currie has refocused his career on rally raid competition with great success. Now he heads to Dakar with the most experience of any American racer. Born into off-road racing culture he has to best all around knowledge base and driving skill set to win the UTV class in Dakar, and comes in hungry after just missing the podium last year.

AJ Jones 

Photo credit: MadMedia

AJ Jones not only just won the Baja 1000, he also finished seventh overall in a spec TT! The son of off-road champion Jesse Jones, AJ has been putting the work competing in rally raids in preparation for Dakar. There is no doubt he can wheel a car, he knows vehicle mechanics as he preps his own trucks, and with the knowledge his father brings to the table, he could easily win the UTV class.

TrophyKart Kids

Mark this point in history: this will be the first wave of TrophyKart kids to Dakar. As these young men climb through the ranks, there’s no doubt that they will win Dakar.

Mitch Guthrie Jr. started racing trophykarts at 9 years old. He is now 23. That’s 14 years of off-road racing knowledge. I can tell you firsthand from chasing him during the 2017 Baja 1000, which he won. I was thoroughly impressed by his line selection—he can drive fast without damaging the vehicle, which comes from hours, days, and years of racing off-road. You have to understand what the vehicle is capable of and drive to survive. His skill set is well beyond his years, and he will just get better. I would put him toe-to-toe against any off-road racer in the world right now, and he will just get better. One way or another Mitch Guthrie Jr will win Dakar, and there will be dozens and dozens of trophykart kids coming behind him. The world of off-road racing is about to change radically.

Seth Quintero is not being allowed to drive because according to the ASO he is to young. So he will be attending in support of his team. Not allowing him to race is totally stupid and an example of how universal rules hold back progress. Not only does he have a driver’s license, but this year Seth also won a BITD championship, winning 4 of the 5 races in the series including the UTV World Championship, The Mint 400, Parker 425, and Vegas to Reno. Most of the racers in Dakar are less qualified than this kid. 

At four years old, Blade Hidelbrand began racing mini-moto, go karts and BMX. He moved up the ladders system in off-road racing 5 cars, then 10 cars, then off to sprint cars. He raced and won in Robby Gordon’s Stadium Super Trucks, which are notoriously sketchy to drive, and moved up to the spec Trophy Truck and Pro Lite classes over the past year. Last year, in his first Dakar, Blade won his class—OP1 UTV—in what is quickly becoming the most competitive class in rally raid racing.

The Bikes

Ricky Brabec

Photo credit: Honda Monster Energy Factory Racing

Ricky is a savage on a bike. He has won the Hare & Hound, Best in the Desert, and SCORE championships. He’s also won all the major races in North America including the Baja 1000, Baja 500, Baja 250, and most recently “The Return of the Bikes” at “The Great American Off-Road Race,” The Mint 400, besting 160 competitors. For the last two years of the Dakar, Ricky has fallen to mechanical issues. In fact at last year’s Dakar, it is widely believed his bike was tampered with. If Ricky’s equipment holds out, he could win this race. 

Andrew Short

Photo credit: Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing

Short was a mega star in American Supercross and Motocross and has steadily climbed the ranks in desert off-road racing finishing sixth at last year’s Dakar and winning the Morooco Rally in October. He is a contender without a doubt, but lacks the experience of many of his competitors. We hope to see more Supercross racers making the transition into desert off-road racing.

Photo source: Klymciw Racing facebook page

Klymciw Racing will send two Americans, Garrett Poucher and Skyler Howes, to this year’s event. Poucher persevered through a number of crashes to finish 32nd in his Dakar debut last year, while fellow rookie Howes had to abandon the event just after the halfway point due to multiple shoulder injuries. Both will be pushing for better results in their sophomore attempts.

Kyle McCoy is a competitive ultra-marathon runner with very little bike experience. A former Army officer with four tours in Afghanistan, it’d be an incredible story if he was able to finish his first attempt at the Dakar. But having successfully accomplished that in other races the world over, it’s not an unlikely one by any means.

How to Watch

As was the case last year, daily stage recaps of the Dakar Rally will air regularly on the NBC Sports Network. Check your local listings for full details. The first two stages will air back-to-back on NBCSN on Monday, January 6 at 5PM ET/2PM PT.

Matt Martelli

Founder of Mad Media, a multidisciplinary creative and marketing firm and CEO of Off-Road Racer, UTV Underground, The Mint 400, The California 300, and Dirt Co. Matt is one of the biggest influences in Off-Road Racing today.