RIYADH: The planet’s toughest test of motorsports endurance returns to Saudi Arabia in the New Year as a brand-new Dakar Rally route will push committed petrolheads to the limit over diverse landscapes. Here is all you need to know:
After four decades of desert action in Africa and South America, a stunning debut in the Arabian Peninsula earlier this year saw the Dakar capture the imagination of adventurous rally fans the world over once again. In January 2021, the world’s toughest rally is heading back to Saudi Arabia for another fortnight of exhilarating offroad action.
The Dakar convoy will start their 2021 odyssey on the shores of the Red Sea as they depart Jeddah on January 3. Competitors will spend the following two weeks navigating their way through Saudi Arabia’s expansive deserts. A well earned Rest Day will come in the ancient city of Ha’il at the midway point on January 9.
A hero’s reception awaits those who manage to meet every challenge and cross the finish line back in Jeddah on January 15. The winners of each category (Car, Bike, Truck, Quad and UTV) will be celebrated on the podium, but everyone who completes the Dakar has the right to be satisfied at overcoming the toughest test of endurance.
As well as a new route for 2021, further innovations will be added to the mix to increase the sporting challenges of the event while always prioritising participant safety. Handing out the roadbook of a stage just 10 minutes before racing starts will bring navigation skills to the fore. Also among the new regulations are strict rules governing tyres. No tyre changes will be allowed in the car category during the marathon stage while each motorbike will be granted a total of six rear tyres for the entire rally.
To ensure competitors remain as safe as possible there will be audible warnings ahead of danger zones. Furthermore, certain hazardous sections will be categorised as “slow zones” where the speed limit will be set at 90kph. Airbag vests will now be mandatory and subject to inspection by race officials during technical scrutineering.
Dakar Rally director David Castera said: “[During the 2020 Dakar] stage after stage, and often multiple times within the same stage, the majestic landscapes of the region left us dazzled and in awe. However, Saudi Arabia only revealed a tiny part of its mysteries, leaving plenty of surprises in store for the next edition in January 2021.”
Also new in 2021 will be Dakar Classic, a parallel contest for vintage vehicles that will use the same start and finish points. In a nod to the unique heritage of the rally, memorable machines from the past such as the Renault 20, Lada Niva, Toyota Celica, Land Rover Defender and Porsche 959 are expected on the start line of the inaugural race.