Carlos Sainz is a triple Dakar Champion at 57

With Saudi Arabia hosting for the first time, 2020’s Dakar came down to the duels between Mini’s and Toyota’s most dedicated teams. Luckily for the German effort run by the off-road pros at X-raid, the pair of Carlos Sainz and Lucas Cruz managed to cross the line 6 minutes and 21 seconds ahead of the Toyota truck driven by last year’s winner Nasser Al-Attiyah. That margin only shows how tight this race has been, even at nearly 4700 miles across the Arabian Desert.

At 57 and 45, Sainz and Cruz just won the Rally Dakar for the third time, having previously triumphed in 2010 and 2018. They also gave Mini its fifth overall victory, which has been a long time coming after its unbeatable period between 2012 and 2015. Sainz and Cruz drove the #305 Mini John Cooper Works Buggy, beating Toyota Gazoo Racing’s factory effort to the punch.

Mini and X-raid also got third place thanks to Dakar veteran Stéphane Peterhansel and co-driver Paulo Fiuza, who finished just 9 minutes and 58 seconds behind Sainz and Cruz with their 350-horsepower diesel JCW Buggy. These two Mini JCW Buggy crews each won four stages, while Mini vehicles went fastest on a total of nine of the twelve days. Having 568 pound-feet on tap from 2150 rpm on seems to be the ticket in the sand.

Only two of the nine Mini teams failed to reach the end in Al-Quiddia, yet four out of seven finished in the top ten. This left Toyota with second, fourth, fifth and seventh to grab. Meanwhile, Toyota’s golden child and Dakar rookie Fernando Alonso had to settle for P13, which is not bad for a debut run.

Unfortunately, 2020’s race also claimed the life of Portuguese motorcycle rider Paulo Gonçalves, with fellow biker Edwin Straver remaining in critical condition. Though it won’t get any easier, the Dakar will continue in Saudi Arabia next year.

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