Saudi Arabia has been chosen to host the 2020 version of the Dakar Rally, for the first time in the Middle East.
According to the details released today, Thursday by the Kingdom’s General Sports Authority at an event in Al-Qaddiya., the race will begin on January 5 in Jeddah, with the drivers set to race through Al-Madinah, Tabuk and Ha’il regions before having a rest day in Riyadh.
It said that from the capital, the route will wind its way back toward the coast through the Asir region and ends in the city of Al-Qaddiya on January 12.
Speaking at the event, the chairman of the General Sports Authority (GSA), Prince Abdul Aziz bin Turki Al-Faisal announced a 10-year partnership with the Dakar Rally.
“We want the world to see the captivating desert of Saudi Arabia and to get to know the good and hospitable people of the Kingdom that looks forward to receiving the world.
“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.”
The Dakar was held in South America since 2009.
The gruelling multi-stage rally was previously held in Africa but was relocated after terrorist threats in Mauritania in 2008.
Prince Khalid Bin Sultan Abdullah Al-Faisal, chairman of the Saudi Arabian Motor Federation, said that he was happy that Saudi Arabia will be the next to host the race, adding: “I have always wanted to participate in Dakar Rally. 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.”
CEO of Qiddiya project, Michael Reininger said: “Qiddiya will soon become the centre of the motorsports world by virtue of an unparalleled collection of on track and off road facilities and a set of experiences and events that have never been assembled in one place before.”
The CEO of the rally’s organizing company, Amaury Sport Organization, Yann Le Moenner thanked the princes for their commitment to bringing the rally to Saudi Arabia.
“Crossing the best deserts of the world has always been in the DNA of the Dakar, to discover and share.”
Meanwhile, the drivers involved in the rally have been in Saudi Arabia soaking up local culture and experiencing some of the desert landscapes they will drive through in January.