Red Bull junior programme expands into Dakar
Red Bull will field a host of young drivers in the 2020 Dakar Rally as part of its motorsport junior programme's expansion to rally raids.
The new initiative, which will follow in the footsteps of the circuit racing Red Bull Junior Team that produced Formula 1 champion Sebastian Vettel and grand prix winners Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen, will be run in partnership with off-road racing mainstay Overdrive.
Also a major contributor to Toyota's Dakar efforts, Overdrive has built and designed a 4x4 prototype under the lightweight FIA T3 regulations - which govern the SxS class of competition - for the new project.
"The project started in February this year when the FIA published the regulations," Overdrive director Jean-Marc Fortin told Motorsport.com. "So we decided to start afresh, and we spoke to Red Bull during the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge [in March], to see if we could do a collaboration.
"Everything moved fast after that because they were very interested in joining the project. We built the car in four-five months and we released it in mid-September."
The new OT3 prototype, weighing at 890kg and equipped with a 177bhp turbo engine, has completed around 2,500km of testing in Morocco.
Dakar winners Nasser Al-Attiyah and Cyril Despres have been involved in the development and testing process.
Four OT3s are set to take the start in Dakar, with a roster of drivers between 18 and 21 years of age to be unveiled next week. Despres, who does not have a ride for the 2020 edition of the marathon, will be on hand as a coach.
The SxS class was dominated by Can-Am in last year's Dakar, with former bike class podium finisher Francisco 'Chaleco' Lopez Contardo emerging victorious.
"The ultimate goal of this category is to serve as a springboard for new drivers, because the average age of this discipline [rally raid] is very high with Carlos [Sainz], Stephane [Peterhansel], and even Nasser," Fortin said.
"It is thus ideal to bring new knowledge to the T3 category, since it is a cheaper option to compete in the FIA [world] championship and the Dakar."
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