The organisers of Dakar Rally has confirmed its move to Middle East from the 2020 season onward with Saudi Arabia to host the grueling cross-country rally.
After 30 years in Africa, Dakar Rally found new home in South America for the last 10 years but the time came to move on to another new destination with Saudi Arabia securing a deal to host the world’s biggest cross-country rally from 2020 onward.
Already, it was becoming difficult in South America for the last few seasons and so the move to Middle East comes at a right time for the organisers. The motorsport scene in Middle East, especially on the rally side has seen a significant boom.
His Royal Highness Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki AlFaisal Al Saud, Chairman of the Saudi Arabia General Sports Authority, said: “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, added: “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.”
Termed as ‘Chapter III’, the initial deal seems like to be for 10 years as Al Saud mentioned about ‘Vision 2030’. It is yet to be confirmed though with further details to be revealed on April 25 – including the new route and other stage details.
David Castera, Director of the Dakar, added: “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.”