Three weeks is all that separates the world of motorsport from the launch of the world’s most challenging race when Dakar Rally Saudi Arabia 2020 begins in Jeddah on 5 January.
It will be the first time this adventurous race comes to Asia, where Saudi Arabia’s desert will play host to the 7500-km long adventure over 13 days of action and 12 stages of challenging navigation across the kingdom’s remarkable desert.
Taking place from 5 to 17 January, the first edition of Dakar Rally in Saudi Arabia will see more than 550 drivers from 62 nations explore the vast and formidable desert terrains of Saudi Arabia.
“We were really excited by the extremely beautiful landscape and the deserts were exactly what we expected with the dunes, the nice mountains and small canyons. We have some stages along the sea also, so it will be a mixed landscape, which is very interesting,” 13-time Dakar Rally winner Stéphane Peterhansel said.
“Saudi Arabia is a big country, so there are a lot of possibilities. It has a lot of deserts, which makes it the perfect place to organise Dakar for sure,” the French driver added.
Dakar Saudi Arabia 2020 gets underway in Jeddah before drivers and crews navigate their way through the fast and winding dunes and stones for 752km.
The intimidating challenge continues up north along the coast for nearly 900km through the Red Sea Project till it reaches the futuristic megacity of Neom, where the marvellous journey reaches its highest point at an altitude of 1,400 metres amid a series of canyons and mountains.
A combination of sandy stretches and gravel await Dakar’s thrill-seeking competitors as they cruise next through 676km of the formidable trip from Neom to Al Ula in Dakar’s fourth stage before the sandy hills of Ha’il put the navigation skills of competitors to the test while descending south onto Riyadh.
A rest day in the capital will be followed by Dakar Saudi Arabia’s longest stage of 741km as the route takes a turn to the west in the centre of the kingdom’s enormous desert before looping back towards Haradh in the eastern governorate of Al Ahsa, marking the entrance to the Empty Quarter and building up to the grand finale in the future entertainment, sports and cultural destination of Qiddiya, where the winner will be crowned on the final podium.
“Here in Saudi you can find anything. I think everybody is surprised and shocked by what they are seeing. The country is very very big and very beautiful. You can find winter and summer on the same day whether in the north or the west [or elsewhere]. It is a very big country and you can find every terrain in it,” Saudi driver Yazeed Al Rajhi said of his country hosting Dakar Rally for the first time.
Spanish rally driver Carlos Sainz added: “I think everyone finds it very exciting because of what we have seen. It seems to be really really what Dakar needs, and we are hoping to enjoy it and have a good race.” Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation had officially confirmed route details of the world’s most challenging rally at an international press conference in Paris. Dakar Saudi Arabia 2020 will see pilots drive specially modified vehicles, trucks, quad, SxS, and motorbikes, designed to handle 12 stages of various challenging terrains.