Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Pablo Quintanilla and Andrew Short are all set to race the upcoming 2020 Dakar Rally. The two Husqvarna FR 450 Rally mounted stars will face a new challenge with the event taking place in the Middle East for the first time ever.
With just over two weeks to go until the start of the race, as their preparations continue the Rockstar Energy Husqvarna duo can reflect on what were very different but equally positive 2019 seasons.
Finishing a close second at the 2019 Dakar Rally, Pablo Quintanilla was forced to endure a prolonged recovery period following the injury he sustained on the very last day of competition in Peru. Returning to rally competition at the Atacama Rally in Chile, the local hero was not only competitive, but went on to win the event.
Placing as a close runner-up to his teammate at the Rally du Maroc in October, it was clear that Pablo was once again riding at his best. Now, following several months of further testing and training, the two-time FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Champion is confident of a strong result at the 2020 Dakar.
Achieving his goal of a top-10 finish at the Dakar Rally in 2019 with a strong sixth-place result, Andrew Short is now unquestionably counted as one of the top riders in the sport. Backing up his Dakar result with superb performances at the four FIM World Championship rounds, he ultimately finished as series runner-up and claimed his first overall race victory with a win at the Rally du Maroc.
Now, with the 2020 Dakar breaking new ground in the form of a 12-stage race in Saudi Arabia, the 37-year-old American is keen to put his increased experience to the test in an event that will provide a new challenge, and a level playing field, for all competitors.
Totalling 12 stages and covering over 7,800 kilometres, the 2020 Dakar Rally will be held exclusively in Saudi Arabia. The first stage of the event leaves the city of Jeddah on January 5 and is followed by 11 tough days of racing that include timed specials covering 5,097 kilometres. With the majority of the event held in the soft sand of ‘The Empty Quarter’ desert, and most days challenging competitors with long, tough hours on the bike, the 2020 Dakar will test all riders’ skill and endurance to the maximum.
Pablo Quintanilla: “2019 has been a tough year for me. After coming so close at the Dakar only to get injured on the final day was really hard. I then had eight months off the bike to recover and I couldn’t wait to get racing again. To come back at my home round in Chile and win was amazing and far more than I could have hoped for. My feeling on the bike has been really good and it’s nice to know I was on the pace straight away. Looking ahead to the Dakar, I think it’s going to be tough for everyone. Navigation will be tricky and the days are very long. The good thing is, no one will have an advantage and it’s equal for all the riders. For me, I’m really looking forward to it and can’t wait to start the new adventure.”
Andrew Short: “I’ve now completed my second year of racing rally and this will be my third Dakar, so that, combined with my increased experience, gives me a lot of confidence ahead of the race this January. I have to admit, it took me a little longer than I had anticipated to really get up to speed and be competitive but 2019 has been a real turning point for me. Sixth at the Dakar and then second overall in the world championship, along with a race win has been a real boost. With the 2020 Dakar covering new terrain in a new country I really feel like I have my best chance at challenging for the podium.”