PARIS – The Dakar Rally will move to Saudi Arabia in 2020 after 11 races in South America and 30 others in Africa, organizers said on Monday.
This would be the first edition of the race to take place in Asia and the second in a row to be held entirely in one country.
There had been speculation for weeks about the possibility of Dakar finding a new venue in the Middle East after several South American countries pulled out of hosting the major event.
The 2019 Dakar Rally was held in one country, Peru, for the first time, which posed a risk for the organizers since any problem could have forced them to suspend the race.
Chile, Bolivia, Paraguay and Argentina slammed the brakes on the Dakar Rally respectively for various reasons after having hosted stages of the race since 2009, a year after the edition that was canceled over security threats in the African countries that used to host the rally.
Chile was excluded in 2015 due to natural disasters, while Argentina said it would not host any stages of the race in 2019 for financial reasons. Bolivia also said no to the 2019 edition.
In May last year, the then Dakar race director, Etienne Lavigne, now replaced by David Castera, told Efe that after the withdrawal of Chile, Bolivia and Argentina, the organizers became more active in their search for other host countries.
With Angola, South Africa and Saudi Arabia on the table, the organizers settled for the latter option.
“I am already inspired and delighted to have to design a course in such a monumental geography, made for the most audacious itineraries,” the Dakar director said.
“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,” Castera added.
Chairman of the Saudi General Sports Authority Abdulaziz bin Turki Al Saud stressed that “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,” Al Saud said.
Meanwhile, head of the Saudi Arabian Motor Federation Khalid Bin Sultan Al Faisal highlighted that the support of Saudi Prince Mohamed bin Salman was “key to our efforts to secure the hosting rights for an event of such a global magnitude.”
The race first began in 1979 as Paris-Dakar and then moved to South America in 2009.