It was in Feb when we reported about the rumor which stated Saudi Arabia hosting the next Dakar. We were obviously pretty excited about it and, just like you, hoped the rumor to come true. Well, perhaps, it did become true… kind of.
As per the latest article on Motorsport.com, Dakar organizers Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) and Saudi Arabia have reportedly signed a 5-year agreement which would allow the rally to be held in the Middle East starting from 2020. During the 1st year of the agreement, the Rally would be conducted only in Saudi Arabia and would start from Riyadh in January.
Former race director Etienne Lavigne shared his thoughts, “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.”
Nasser Al-Attiyah, this year’s Dakar winner, said, “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 organizers. 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.”
Saudi Arabia will prove to be a challenging ground for the Dakar Rally. It has 1.4 million square miles of Arabian desert along with the Asir mountain range where temperatures range from -2 to 30 degrees Celsius in January which will make things for both the riders and their machines even more difficult.
We’re still waiting for official confirmation regarding all this. Fingers crossed!