The 2021 Dakar Rally is just over a month away, and the organizers say they’ve settled on a route. And, once again, the race will run entirely in Saudi Arabia.
The rally’s move to Saudi Arabia for 2020 caused all manner of uproar; after a decade in South America, some fans and participants no doubt thought the event was there to stay. Others weren’t happy about Saudi Arabia’s human rights record, and thought the rally shouldn’t take their business to the desert kingdom. Others were hoping for a return to the African continent, maybe even the original Paris-Dakar route.
Earlier in 2020, it did look like the Dakar’s organizers were thinking of expanding the race outside Saudi Arabia’s borders for 2021, but that’s not happening. Instead, as you can see from the map below, the race is staying completely in a single country once more.
The plan is for this year’s race to start and finish in Jeddah. Racing gets underway on January 3, with January 9 the rest day, after Stage 6. January 10 is the start of the marathon stage. The 12-stage race wraps up January 15, with racers having completed roughly 3,000 miles.
That’s the plan, at least. Anyone who’s payed attention to Dakar for a few years knows the plan can change very quickly, thanks to weather or other concerns. The Saudi climate is pretty stable, with little likelihood of floods causing trouble in the desert, but it’s possible the coronavirus pandemic may interfere with this year’s racing instead. Never rule out unexpected trouble in this race. In fact, you could say that’s the defining feature of the event.
American Ricky Brabec enters this year’s Dakar as the reigning champ, on the Honda factory team. We’ll have a closer look at this year’s race in a few weeks.