The ASO has just announced the dates for the 2022 Dakar Rally, and the general location.
Next year, the Dakar Rally will run January 2-14, and it will return to Saudi Arabia. The race will start in Ha’il and end in Jeddah, running a clockwise course from east to west.
The 2022 rally will head through some very wild country, going through Saudi Arabia’s vast Empty Quarter. Organizers say three stages will have nothing but sand dunes, all day. There will be two loop stages, with the day starting and ending at the same bivouac; there will also be two marathon stages, with the riders not allowed outside help from their mechanical support team. The rally will cover around 8,000 kilometres.
The Saudi races have always been challenging, but it sounds as if the upcoming rally could significantly increase in difficulty.
There had been rumours that the rally might expand to other Middle Eastern countries in 2021, but COVID-19 interfered with that plan. Indeed, running the rally solely in Saudi Arabia proved challenging enough, and it’s no surprise to see organizers routing the rally entirely through Saudi Arabia for 2022.
Long term plan?
When the ASO moved the Dakar to Saudi Arabia for 2020, there was considerable complaining by race fans who stood against the country’s human rights record. ADVrider inmates had considerable discussion on the issue here. However, the rally will be based there through 2025, and don’t be surprised if it’s in effect beyond that.
Because, let’s face it: The ASO needs money to run, and Saudi Arabia has lots of petro-bucks. The ASO needs dune-filled terrain, and Saudi Arabia has lots of that, too. And, in a time of questions over pandemics and borders and terrorism, running the race entirely in a single country just makes things … easy. For all those reasons, don’t expect the ASO to change this arrangement until they have to.