The route of the 2020 Dakar Rally Edition has been outlined — the race will enter its ‘Chapter III’ in the Arabian Peninsula for a minimum of five years, starting with the controversial decision of Saudi Arabia as the 2020 Edition. Watch the complete Press Conference below.
For the first time in its entire history since the Paris Dakar Rally started from the Trocadero in Paris in December 1978, the 2019 Dakar Rally took place in a single country — Peru.
The single country destination was not by choice but by default after Bolivia and Peru pulled out as a race destination, with each country deciding that the required budget was better spent elsewhere.
This left the organiser (ASO) scrambling to make-do with what they had — the result was all sand, a single country, and just 10 days of racing as opposed to the customary 14-16 days of racing — albeit the same fees for the competitors.
However, the cost of running the Dakar Rally is an expensive exercise with vehicles being freighted by sea from Europe, so the missing budget that was to come from Bolivia and Chile had to be found somewhere else, and the likely place was to cut down the numbers of days and related expenses.
With South American countries no longer willing to agree to the monies required by ASO, this left the organiser in a peculiar position with many other race locations ‘already-in-use’ — such as the original Paris Dakar route from Monaco to Dakar with the Africa Race, or Russia / China taken over by ex-Dakar Deputy Director Frédéric Lequien with the Silk Way Rally.
The Dakar Rally route options for 2020 were fairly limited, Northern Africa with Algeria and Libya, or Southern Africa through countries such as Angola, Namibia, Botswana, South Africa, or heading to the Arabian Peninsula.
There is absolutely no doubt that if the event had been held in Northern Africa or Southern Africa the entries would have poured in — especially with Southern Africa as the destination. We ran a couple of social media surveys a few months ago, and the results confirmed our assumptions with 69% of readers wanting to see the race move from South America to Southern Africa.
However, with most factories and racers coming from Europe, Southern Africa Countries would not be able to justify the monies required by ASO to cover transportation cost from Europe to Southern Africa. So the next logical choice, and perhaps only choice for ASO was to follow where the money was, and rumors has it that Saudi Arabia was more than willing to host and pay for the race event over the next five years.
What About the Racers?
January 2020 will have plenty of answers for us, but the Dakar Rally organizers will have to pull out quite a few ‘marketing jokers’ with official racers testimonials, social media posts from factory racers, and plenty of imagery tricks to convince departing Dakar Fans around the globe that Saudi Arabia – another sole country to cross – will be as interesting as what made viewers and race participants lifelong loyal fans in the past.
Whether you agree or disagree with Saudi Arabia cultures, moral values, government practices within their countries or outside of their countries presented to us by worldwide medias, it will be quite an exercise for ASO – the Dakar Rally organizers – to present an alternative view – one that will make every person on the globe jump on a place to want to follow the race.
Who Will be the Racers Competing in the 2020 Dakar Rally in Saudi Arabia?
Factories racers will most likely go where they are told and paid to go, and they will do their jobs to the letter selling ‘Chapter III’ in Saudi Arabia.
The true test of the 2020 Dakar Rally event and its route in Saudi Arabia will rest with the privateers. Will the South American racers that participated from the past 9 years in South America pay the logistics cost to ship their motorbikes, quads, SSV, cars, trucks and assistance vehicles to Saudi Arabia or Europe? [Note: the transportation cost to the race location is included in the inscription but the vehicles have to be shipped from Europe]
Will European privateers jump on the ‘Chapter III’ bandwagon and be willing to explore new territories? Then again, in a single country and in a location that is not as attractive as Southern Africa for competitors.
Or is the 2020 Dakar Rally Edition in Saudi Arabia banking on competitors coming from neighboring countries?
We will see another cut-down version of the Dakar Rally — which once crossed the entire African continent in 21 days? with another short 12-day version.
But one of the most important question is: Will David Castera who recently replaced Etienne Lavigne as Dakar Rally Director be able to revive and re-ignite the True Dakar Spirit in racers and fans all the around the world?
Castera promises sport and navigation will be at the forefront and we certainly hope that the Dakar Rally, through open desert racing, and with Castera as its leader will not only do that but also act as a global sport’s ambassador and be able to bring people of different culture, languages, religious belief and background — together – as a single family.
The Answer: January 2020, we can’t wait!
The FINAL VERDICT will be Given by the Desert.
To borrow a line from the most awarded unscripted motorcycle film of all time, Dream Racer (based on the Dakar Rally) “The desert doesn’t care who you are or why you are here. The desert doesn’t care if you’re hurt or if you’re tired, the desert will be here. Implacably indifferent. Just here. Long after out time has ended.”
The only thing we can rest assured of is that the desert in Saudi Arabia will hold the above statement true and offer great landscapes to competitors and worldwide viewers and fans alike.
Watch the Press Conference [Complete Video]