Throughout the 10 years Dakar Rally has been hosted in South America, many have wondered if the infamous event would ever go back "home" to its birthplace between the capitals of France and of Senegal. Tensions have been rising in the Americas, most notably when several countries tried to prevent Dakar from taking place this year until Peru stepped up as the sole host. Great opposition such as this can be an ominous sign of more severe resistance in the future, much like what inspired the organization to leave Africa in the first place. Maybe the timing is perfect for the ASO to pack up again and get out while they're ahead—and unharmed?

Meanwhile at the 2019 iteration, rumors buzzed around the bivouacs about a return to the motherland. Is it true? Is the Amaury Sport Organization (ASO for short) really planning to uproot this tremendous competition, now so well-seasoned in South America, to make the giant leap back across the pond? Sources, whom asked to remain anonymous due to their relationship with the ASO, say yes, but not quite where some had hoped.

If not to Africa, then where? At the Qatar Cross Country Rally, the Saudi Arabian attendees seemed to know the answer. All whom had intel felt 100-percent sure their country won the bid to host the 2020 Dakar—by a landslide, no less. The Islamic country reportedly offered the ASO $15 million per event over the next five years. Staggering compared to the $3 million reportedly proposed by Chile for the impending race. The intention is to host the event in Saudi Arabia this coming January, then from 2021 to 2024, they’ll front the bill for the following hosts which could include Jordan, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates.

Dakar Rally
Saudi Arabia is rumored to have offered $15 million per Dakar Rally for the next five years.Justin W. Coffey

This doesn’t surprise a lot of those heavily involved with the rally. The squabbles with the South American countries, not including those caught up in conflict, quickly led to discussions about moving. Asia was a contender, as well as North Africa—which would have been the choice for many participants who had missed the opportunity to compete on the original course over a decade ago. But it’s the third candidate in the Middle East which may have dangled the biggest carrot.

All speculation aside, the rally is nonetheless going through changes. In 2020, David Castera will replace Etienne Lavigne after his 15-year reign as Dakar’s race director. And although Lavigne has moved from Dakar, he has not left the ASO, taking another position with the organization. Castera is a desert racing veteran and was Dakar’s sport director for nine years before Marc Coma too retired from racing and took over. He’s no stranger to the organized chaos that is the “World’s Rally,” yes, but if all the aforementioned is true—no matter where the rally plans to relocate, in fact—the new race director has his work cut out for him.

Fans and teams alike have been itching for a change of scenery, but we’re yet to know if the Middle East’s backdrop is ideal as several of its countries are currently facing political turmoil. That’s not to say Dakar’s other suitors are doing much better, but since 9/11, the average American likely associates the vast Islamic region with more negative connotations than with any of its positives traits. For those drawn to exploration, Saudi Arabia is filled with mystery and lore, considered the birthplace of Islam and domain of the notorious Mecca—a city once so closed off to the outside world, any foreigner who tried to penetrate its walls was immediately sentenced to death.

Although things have long since changed, stigmas still hangs low over the town and country. But that's the key word here: change. It's inevitable, and however miniscule or remarkable, change at Dakar is significant. One can only hope if rumors prove true, stereotypes can be set aside allowing the ASO to build new relationships over epic horizons and further creating grand adventures.