The Revolution Of Dakar 3.0

Dakar moves to Saudia Arabia for 2020 through 2025

Dakar Rally
Suadi Arabia will host the Dakar Rally for the next five years.Dakar Rally

Africa, South America, Asia. Faithful to its nomadic and adventurous spirit, the Dakar Rally is ready to write a new chapter of its extraordinary history. After 30 years in Africa (1978–2008) and 11 editions in South America, the legendary competition heads to the Middle East and in particular to Saudi Arabia.


If the cancellation of the 2008 edition due to the threat of terrorism in Mauritania obliged the organizers to find a future in South America, the difficult negotiations and the instability of Latin America resulting in a Dakar that was limited to only Peru last January pushed the French organization to explore new tracks.

“We had three options,” commented David Castera, the new Dakar director, “remaining in South America, exploring South Africa, or discovering a new place: Saudi Arabia. This country was ready to host the Dakar, a caravan of 3,000 people (including the competitors, the team, the organization, and the media) from 50 different nationalities.”

The young Crown Prince Moḥammad bin Salmān, ideator of ambitious economic and social projects (Vision 2030), took the opportunity to secure a five-year contract. The rally and motorsport in general, with the debut of Formula E last December and negotiations with Formula 1, is an accelerator to kick off a cultural revolution in a country that is gradually opening to the world. Saudi Arabia is following what has been done by other Gulf countries (United Arab Emirates, Qatar, and Bahrain), nations that have changed their cultural approach with the West starting with the organization of major sporting events.

Saudi Arabia Dakar Rally map
The 2020 Dakar Rally will cover much of Saudi Arabia.Dakar Rally

2020 Route

Dakar 3.0 will start on January 5, 2020, from Jeddah, the economic heart of country on the west coast, launching a journey of 12 stages and more than 9,000 kilometers to finish on the 17th at the new Qiddiya complex, not far from Riyadh, where the rest day will take place.

The endless desert with few inhabitants will return as a protagonist, echoing the legendary stages that characterized the first chapter of the Dakar in Africa. “There will be stages of 500 kilometers with reduced liaison and more timed sections. We will return to the African style of the rally,” explained Castera, co-driver of Stéphane Peterhansel with Mini on the last Dakar. “In the largest state in the region, 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. The first week will kick off from the west coast and will start exploring the mountains and the canyons. The second week will be more demanding with lots of sand and dunes. The idea is to have mixed terrain every stage.”

But the revolutionary ideas of the Dakar 2020 continue with the focus on the navigation, the adventure, and the skills of the competitors. As already tested this April at the Merzouga Rally, on several occasions the roadbook will be given the morning of the stage. This will reduce the advantages of top teams that count on the support of the precious map men and will guarantee more equity. Not only that, heading to a completely new country with an unexplored desert, all the competitors will start without reference, re-shuffling the cards of the favorites. As for the roadbook, the future will be electronic, replacing paper.


Starting from 2021 the rally could explore other countries of the Middle East in addition to Saudi Arabia. The third chapter of the Dakar has just started.