30 years in Africa, more than a decade in South America – now the Dakar Rally is changing continents for the second time. The Dakar 2020 will take place in the Middle East, in Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia is one of the countries of the world of which only a few foreigners have been able to get an authentic picture so far. The authoritarian desert state has always made it difficult for foreigners to look around the country on their own. The role as host for the Dakar 2020 could be a further sign of a cautious opening of the country in recent times.
On 5 January the rally will start in Jeddah, the big port on the Red Sea. After a loop through the northwestern parts of the country, the convoy reaches the capital Riyadh for rest day. The second part of the rally takes an arc through the southern provinces. The finish in the entertainment city of Qiddiya on the western outskirts of Riyadh is planned for 17 January. A total of around 9000 kilometres are to be covered on 12 stages. The scouting teams want to have finalised the route planning before the big summer heat.
Dakar Director David Castera: “Here, in the largest state in the region, we have endless opportunities to work out a hard, balanced and varied course. The sporting challenge that we are putting together for the 42nd edition will exploit the full potential of this huge country and its mosaic of deserts, mountains, gorges, valleys and coastal landscapes”.
In any case, it will be interesting to see how the organisation deals with the numerous restrictions in the country, such as clothing and the appearance of female drivers and co-pilots.