After 30 years in Africa and 11 years in South America, Dakar is now moving to Saudi Arabia to start a new chapter. Yes, it’s official, Dakar 2020 will take place in the Middle East for the first time ever.
We’ve been hearing rumors about this since February 2019, however, there was no official confirmation on anything. Things were uncertain then and we hoped and wished for the rumors to come true. Well, our wishes were heard.
Dakar organizers Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) confirmed on Monday that Saudi Arabia will host the next Rally. It’s believed that ASO and Saudi Arabia have signed a 5-year agreement. More details will be revealed on 25th April 2019 in Al-Qiddiya, located near the Saudi capital of Riyadh.
David Castera, who assumed the responsibility of Dakar rally director in March, said, “It is a real pleasure to have to create a race in such monumental geography and proper one to the most daring routes. There is a great variety to choose from. The sport, the navigation, surpassing oneself, will obviously be magnified in these territories made for rally raids.”
Prince Khalid Bin Sultan Abdullah Al Faisal, president of the Motor Federation of Saudi Arabia, said, “I have always wanted to participate in the Dakar, and since I did not have the opportunity to fulfill this ambition, I am now involved in the realization of a dream even greater: to have the Dakar in the Middle East for the first time.”
“The vision and support of His Highness Prince Muhammad Bin Salman and the confidence of the President of the General Sports Authority, Abdul Aziz Bin Al Turki Al Faisal, were the keys that allowed us to obtain the rights to organize an event of such magnitude.”
“We promise new challenges to competitors by drawing scenarios in the majestic and mysterious desert of Rub al-Khali. The diversity of terrain and the natural environment of the country will lead competitors to live a unique experience.”
Adventure motorsports like the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, are already quite popular in the Middle East. Its vast deserts provide a tough battleground for rally competitors and test both the rider and the machine. In the past, Saudi Arabia hosted the FIA-backed Middle East Rally Championship and 2018/19 ABB FIA Formula E season opener. Now, with the Dakar marked on its calendar, Saudi Arabia is clearly opening its doors to more such motorsports.