New location, new rules, new Dakar.

It’s that time of the year once again! On January 5, 2020, the 42nd edition of the Dakar Rally hits Saudi Arabia’s dunes for the very first time. 

The crews will gather in the country’s second-biggest city over the weekend for last-minute prep and pre-race scrutineering. The rally kicks off on the first Sunday of 2020 with a 467-mile stage and 200-mile special and will unfold over the following 12 days. 4,660 miles later (7,767 if you include the specials), the racers will cross the finish line in Qiddiya, on January 17. 

This year, the organizers have slightly altered the rules not only to make the competition more challenging but also to reduce the advantage bigger teams had in the past. For instance, the roadmaps won’t be distributed ahead of time anymore. Every racer will receive their instructions at the same time and will have a similar prep time ahead of the stage. 

The roadbook also becomes more complex to test and challenge the competitors’ navigation abilities. In addition to the new roadbook, most of the rally will take place in the sand, a difficult landscape to navigate both mentally and physically. 

There are several factory teams entered, including, of course, KTM Red Bull. The team remains the same as last year’s with 2019 winner Toby Price leading the assault alongside runner-ups Matthias Walkner and Sam Sunderland, former rookie Luciano Benavides, and Mario Patrao. 

The only missing face from this year’s picture is Laia Sanza who changed teams for 2020 and is now racing with GasGas. With all the riders on the team well-versed in the art of the desert raid, KTM is hoping to keep its title of reigning champion by adding a 19th consecutive win to its trophy shelf. Monster Energy Yamaha and Husqvarna Rockstar are also entered in the event with four riders for Yamaha and two for Husqvarna. 

Will the new rules impact KTM’s dominance and give someone else a chance to reach the top? That’s what we’ll find out in two weeks.