As we expected, the Dakar Rally will head to the Middle East for its 2020 edition. The move is a radical departure from the South American continent, which has hosted the iconic race for the last 11 years.
Perhaps over-staying its welcome, the Dakar organizers could only convince Peru to host the 2019 race, and for next year, a new host was picked, with Saudi Arabia’s bid winning out.
As such, the Dakar Rally will be in the Middle East for the next five years, with the 2020 race being exclusively in the country of Saudi Arabia. And now this week, we get our first glimpse of the route for next year.
Racing will start on the coast of the Red Sea, in the city of Jeddah, which is the second-largest city in Saudi Arabia. From there, the competitors will go north into the mountain regions near Jordan, and then south to Riyadh, where racers will have their only rest day.
Once back racing, the competitors will do a loop through the country’s southern region, which has no shortage of sand and mammoth dunes, with the finish taking place in Al Qiddiya.
There has been much said about the Dakar Rally moving to Saudi Arabia, as the Middle Eastern country has used its money and influence to takeover hosting duties to this iconic race.
But, the world is very aware of the issues facing Saudi Arabia, and while the ASO has tried to paint a happy picture of moving to this historic region, there are serious questions being asked about safety and human rights issues in the company’s periphery.
The silver lining to the situation is that Saudi Arabia plans on spreading the wealth when it comes to hosting the Dakar Rally during its five-year contract, with race routes planned through more friend neighboring countries, like Jordan, in the coming years.
This is good news, since it would be a shame to see the iconic race lose its intrigue because of issues surrounding its host country selection. It will be interesting to see how this move to the Middle East changes what is called the most difficult motorcycle race in the world. Stay tuned.