We recently learnt that Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO), the organisers of the 2020 Dakar rally, the toughest race in the world, have moved the race to Saudi Arabia. ASO was initially considering venues in South America. However, ASO shifted the venue after they evaluated the economic instability of the sport in South America. Additionally, many countries in the region did not fulfill their criteria for safety as well.
That is when they signed a five-year contract with Saudi Arabia for the rally. Saudi Arabia, which has about 1.4 million square miles of desert, is the perfect venue for the rally. The scorching heat, and vast and unpredictable Asir mountain ranges ensure that it retains the title of the toughest motorsport event in the world. However, that does not exclude other countries from joining the route at that time.
ASO will hold this first season of the rally in the Middle East, starting January, in the Saudi capital of Riyadh. Event organiser ASO presented the route during a press conference in Al-Qiddiya, alongside representatives from the Saudi government.
Racers will set off from Jeddah on January 5 and the race will conclude in Al Qiddiya on January 17. Much of the route will be through the dunes of the Rub’ al Khali desert. But, thankfully, the opening stages will also feature some WRC-style tracks and mountainous terrain. Competitors will go through 12 stages and over 9,000km of racing. ASO has also planned for a rest day (January 11).
Rally director David Castera commented: “For a born explorer like the Dakar, a fascinating and exciting third chapter opens. In the most extensive [largest] country of the region, the possibilities of tracing a demanding, balanced and varied route are practically endless.”