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The Dakar Rally will start in the Middle East for the first time next year with Saudi Arabia having signed a five-year deal to host the prestigious race.
The Dakar originated as a race from Paris to Senegal in 1979 and spent more than 30 years in Africa before relocating for the past 11 editions to South America.
Here is all you need to know:
- The event was relocated in 2009 following security fears over the race’s ongoing place in Africa.
- Saudi Arabia boasts 1.4million square miles of desert as well as the Asir mountain range, to give the field – on two wheels and four – the necessary challenge.
Nasser Al-Attiyah (three-time Dakar winner):
“I think it will be really exciting for everybody as it’s a new location. When the region changes, the terrain definitely changes. Yet, I have a big experience in the terrain in the Middle East and more specifically in Saudi, being a two-time winner of Hayel Rally in 2008 and 2011. I’m definitely looking at the podium here and I think being an expert in the Middle East region, I will have the chance to be one of the very strong Dakarists in the upcoming 2020 edition of the rally. We will definitely miss having the rally in South America with its amazing South American rally fans, but we love Dakar Rally and Motorsports and we will enjoy it wherever it is.”
Cyril Despres (five-time Dakar winner):
“When I first heard the rumours, I remembered some words from the Dakar’s founder, Thierry Sabine. A long time ago, he talked about the meaning of discovery: if you love discovering Africa, you will also love to discover other parts of the world. This came to my mind when we first moved to South America, and now, 10 years on, it again comes to mind.”
“At first, I was a little sad because I love Peru. I love the scenery, it’s a beautiful landscape there, and I also love the people – they really live and feel the Dakar. On the other hand, Saudi Arabia is a vast country, with infinite possibilities for the perfect route. I am counting 100% on David Castera to create a fair and challenging Dakar. If anybody can do it, he can."
Stéphane Peterhansel (13-time Dakar winner):
“When I first heard the Dakar was moving to Saudi Arabia, I was a little surprised. I didn’t expect it at all. But then I checked the country and saw it’s a very nice place to race. Considering it’s such a large country, with all kinds of terrain, the route should be really interesting. A lot of open desert gives me hope that the new Dakar will look and feel like Africa.”
Sam Sunderland (2017 Dakar bikes winner):
“This change is good for me, because I’ve lived in Dubai for 10 years, adapting well to the Middle East. It’s positive for the Dakar to discover a new territory. One thing is for sure, though: everybody in this sport is excited to discover a new land, a new race, a new format.”
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