Ten days after the rumour first got out, the Dakar’s organizers have confirmed the gossip: the rally is heading to Saudi Arabia.
The move comes after the rally appeared to be running out of steam in South America, after 10 years there. The race’s origins are, of course, in the epic Paris-to-Dakar route, which ran from the ’70s until 2007.
The Paris-to-Dakar race was legendary for spanning two continents, but by 2019, a combination of politics and money had the rally restricted to running solely in the country of Peru. There was much consternation from rally raid fans, and speculation the event was near its end.
Turns out, the end was indeed near, but only for South America! Today, ASO (organizers of Dakar) confirmed the rally is headed back across the Atlantic, but not to Africa as many hoped. Instead, the race will run in the Middle East, entirely in the country of Saudi Arabia.
For now, the ASO isn’t saying much about the change. More details are supposed to come on April 25.
But, this is definitely going to open a can of worms. Already, race fans are decrying the move, saying Saudi Arabia has a poor history when it comes to human rights, and therefore, they feel the race should have gone elsewhere. Other fans say it’s a bad move to go to a single-country race route, as it’s a huge difference from the old model of running the race across continents.
We’ll no doubt hear plenty of other chatter about the race, but for now, we can leave you with the official ASO press release below:
Dakar – Chapter III
April 15 th 2019 – 15:00
After 30 years of discovering the beauty of Africa and a decade of adventure exploring the spectacular landscape of South America, a new chapter in the history of Dakar will be written as the world’s biggest rally makes its Middle East debut in Saudi Arabia.
The mega event offers drivers more than just a journey. The rally will be an opportunity for those who dare to test themselves in an unknown landscape and an uncharted terrain, setting the scene for the optimum stage to prove their driving skills, navigational prowess and knack for a challenge.
See you on April, 25th 2019 on this site and on the social networks to find out more about the Dakar 2020!
His Royal Highness Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki AlFaisal Al Saud, Chairman of the Saudi Arabia General Sports Authority.
“The vision and guidance of our leaders have made our dreams and ambitions limitless and have set the sports scene in the Kingdom on a remarkable success route. Today we are thrilled to announce that Rally Dakar, an event with a huge global appeal is coming to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Middle East for the first time. Our country is extremely passionate about sport and our strategic goal is to feed that appetite as we move further towards achieving Vision 2030, of which sport is a basic pillar.
In hosting Dakar Rally we aim to produce an unbelievable and unforgettable experience for drivers as they discover the beauty of Saudi nature and a unique spectacle for motorsport fans not only in Saudi Arabia but also in the region and around the world.”
HRH Prince Khalid Bin Sultan Abdullah Al Faisal, Chairman of the Saudi Arabian Motor Federation
“I have always wanted to participate in Dakar Rally. While I wasn’t fortunate to achieve that ambition, I’m now part of achieving a much bigger dream for my country as Dakar comes to the Middle East region for the first time ever.
The vision and support of HRH Prince Muhammad Bin Salman and the trust that GSA president HRH Prince Abdul Aziz Bin Turki Al Faisal had put in us were key to our efforts to secure the hosting rights for an event of such a global magnitude.”
David Castera, Director of the Dakar.
“Looking back at my first memories of the Dakar and my first experiences as a competitor, I’ve always considered that this rally like no other carried a concept of discovery, a voyage into the unknown. By going to Saudi Arabia, it is of course that aspect that fascinates me. I’m convinced that such a feeling will be shared by all the riders, drivers and copilots. As the director of the event, it’s a massive chalenge to be faced with a blank page with limitless possibilities.
I’m already inspired and delighted to have to design a course in such a monumental geography, made for the most audacious itineraries. We are spoilt for choice. Sports, navigation, a will to surpass oneself: all these aspects will naturally be glorified on this territory made for rally-raids.”