The Dakar is reportedly moving to Saudi Arabia for the next 5 years. Numerous outlets are reporting that a 5-year deal has been signed. The reports are claiming that the Dakar will start in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia in January 2020. The Dakar’s organizer Amaury Sport Organization (ASO) has refused to comment, but many reports say that an announcement will be made in the coming weeks.
Apparently, economic uncertainty is the cause of the move. This year’s Dakar was held exclusively in Peru, the first time the rally had been held completely in one country. ASO had been unable to negotiate agreements with Peru’s other South American neighbors. Previous Dakars in South America had included Peru, Bolivia, Chile and, Argentina.
Former Race Director Etienne Lavigne provided some insight in January 2019.
“The truth is that we have the pressure to propose a project for 2020 and beyond as soon as possible.
“In three or four months, if we don’t know how to recover the desire [for the event], we have to change course – we cannot afford a situation like the last months.”
Dakar winner discusses the move
Motosport discussed the change with this year’s Dakar car winner Nasser Al-Attiyah who seemed to be excited about the change.
“We are very happy to have the Dakar in our region. I will be in Saudi Arabia in 30 minutes [from his home in Qatar].
“We love South America, the people there, the incredible countries they have, but we have to respect the decisions of the organisers.
“Like when we changed from Africa to South America, we were not happy, we wanted to continue [in Africa], but we quickly adapted to South America.
“Exactly the same thing that will happen with the Middle East, because it is a big market too.”
While Al-Attiyah thinks the change will be successful, some are not as sure. They question how the government will manage the arrival of hundreds if not thousands of competitors and fans. Other questions revolve around the handling of female competitors, journalists, and other non-Saudi personnel.
We’ll keep you up to date when/if an official announcement is made.