Dakar Rally 2020 promising 9000km of mountains, deserts and “infinite possibilities”

Routes revealed as the 42nd Dakar Rally in Saudi Arabia is officially launched promising 9000km of fresh challenge between January 5 to 17. 


With more than 2,000,000km² to play with, the message from today’s launch presentation of the 2020 Dakar Rally in Saudi Arabia is we can if nothing else look forward to some awesome landescape. Dismissing any of the rumours and speculation that this would be a race contested in the sand dunes, David Castera, Director of the Dakar said: “The third chapter of its history is particularly fascinating and exciting for a race focused on exploration like the Dakar.”

Speaking of the chance to present the race in a new country, Castera explained: “We can let our imagination run riot with the infinite possibilities for a tough, balanced and varied course. The sporting challenge that we are putting together for the 42nd edition will tap the full potential of this vast country and its mosaic of deserts, mountains, canyons, valleys and coastal landscapes.”

Dakar 2020 route saudi 560

In effect, concrete details from today’s press conference were thin on the ground with both riders and teams still largely in the dark about the stage details, terrain and distances. But footage shown from the recent reccy of the country by organisers, ASO, showed a landscape every bit as varied as we saw from the best of South America – which can only be a good thing after last year’s slightly congested sand race in Peru.

Classic Dakar concepts such as adventure and discovery will feature “heavily” the race organisers explain, as the rally heads into these sparsely inhabited regions. The mountain areas near the Saudi border with Jordan will take competitors deep into a maze of valleys, while the dunes in the Empty Quarter – some of which rise to over 250 metres high­ – will set the stage for dune-surfers to shine.

One key aspect will be the terrain which is unknown to racers. With the event never having been held in Saudi before, and no rally events in the calendar taking place here already, none of the riders has a home advantage. 



That said, Mr Dakar, Stephane Peterhansel, recalled racing in the Saudi deserts on bikes but said it was: “20 years ago.” Maybe the old fox has another win in him yet in teh four-wheelers with his wife, Andrea as co-driver. 

The hope also is the 2020 Dakar will step back towards the adventure spirit of cross country rally it is known for and be less of an elongated motocross race as it has become. perhaps also we will see more riders at the finish or at least less injuries. 

Jeddah, the economic heart of Saudi Arabia, will host the start of the rally, launching a journey of more than 9,000 kilometres to the Qiddiya complex, not far from Riyadh, where the rest day will take place.

Among the guests at today’s conference were Laia Sanz, Stéphane and Andréa Peterhansel, Carlos Sainz, Giniel De Villiers, Nani Roma, Adrien Van Beveren, Joan Barreda, Sam Sunderland and local hero Yazeed Al-Rajhi.


Photo credit: Red Bull/Eduardo Bauer



Byline jp ISDE 2018 Enduro21

Jon Pearson
Enduro21 Editor and Bike Tester