The Dakar Rally organizers have announced more details of the 2020 event, including start and ending locations, and dates.
Earlier this month, the ASO confirmed the Dakar’s rumored move from South America to Saudi Arabia. Originally running through Europe and Africa, the Dakar has run in South America since 2008, but changing economics meant fewer countries were interested in hosting the event. As a result, the rally’s organizers were looking to move, and put together a five-year deal that sees the rally running in Saudi Arabia.
The ASO says this the 2020 race will cover more than 9,000 km through Saudi Arabia, starting at Jeddah, on the country’s western coast, and ending in the Al Qiddiya entertainment region, near the country’s capital of Riyadh. The end location was chosen as part of Saudi Arabia’s drive to boost tourism to the country; Al Qiddiya is key to that plan, with Saudi officials hoping to grow all sorts of motorsports activity there, making it an entertainment destination.
Since the race is running entirely in Saudi Arabia in 2020, terrain options are somewhat limited, but the classic dune sections will be back, with organizers promising some 250 meter-high dunes in areas—that’s going to make navigation a challenge, for sure. However, raw speed will be rewarded in other stages, featuring more wide-open WRC-style tracks. The beginning of the race has mountainous terrain but without the sogginess or the staggering altitude of the sections in the Andes the past few years.
Much of the race will run through the Rub’ al Khali desert, which means sandstorms will replace mudslides as the weather hazards to watch out for.
While the move guarantees the race’s future for the next few years, many Dakar fans are still unhappy, as they say Saudi Arabia’s human rights record means it’s a bad idea to run the race there. Others were really hoping for a return to its African roots. Will the naysayers have an impact on the race’s future? We’ll see how the entry list looks next year.