Motoring Weekly

Challenge accepted!

December 4, 2019
Gulf Weekly Challenge  accepted!

Gulf Weekly Mai Al Khatib-Camille
By Mai Al Khatib-Camille

Dakar Rally Saudi Arabia 2020, which is one of the world’s most challenging rally races, has confirmed its routes and is all set to jump-start the year on a high note.

Rally Dakar, which will come to Asia for the first time from January 5 to 17, was addressed by HRH Prince Khalid Bin Sultan Abdullah Al Faisal, chairman of the Saudi Arabian Federation of Motor and Motorcycle Sports, and rally director David Castera, at a specially hosted press conference at the Arab World Institute in Paris.  The 12 Dakar Saudi Arabia 2020 stages were announced to more than 200 media outlets and broadcasters in the presence of a number of Dakar pilots.

“Saudi Arabia and Rally Dakar come together to write a new chapter of achievements in the world of motorsports, a chapter headlined by the challenge of discovering a new land and written by the warm hospitality the Kingdom and its people have to offer,” said Prince Khalid. “Through this inaugural rally, the world will see our breath-taking desert, our vast land, and will also meet its generous people.

“We want the world to see our fascinating desert waiting for the adventurous stories to be told. We want the world to see, first-hand, the warm and generous hospitality the people of Saudi Arabia have to offer. We are eager to welcome the world to our country, and to witness our vision, capability and professionalism in hosting the biggest sporting events at the highest levels.”

Pilots from more than 62 different nationalities and six continents have registered to experience the unchartered terrain of Dakar Saudi Arabia 2020, where they will drive specially modified vehicles, trucks, quad, SxS, and motorbikes, designed to handle 12 stages of various challenging terrains. Two-time Formula 1 world champion Fernando Alonso, for example, recently competed in Al Ula-Neom Cross-Country Rally  in preparation for the Rally Dakar.

HRH Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki AlFaisal, chairman of Saudi Arabia’s General Sport Authority, added: “We have the privilege of launching chapter 3 of the Dakar story, introducing the race to Asia for the first time, where no country better describes the diversity of desert terrains this continent has to offer than Saudi Arabia.”

The rally, which extends over 7,500 of the kingdom’s vast and unexplored desert, gets underway in Jeddah before drivers and crews navigate their way through the fast and winding dunes and stones for 752km.

The challenge continues up north along the coast for nearly 900km through the Red Sea Project till it reaches the futuristic megacity of Neom, where the journey reaches its highest point at an altitude of 1,400m amid a series of canyons and mountains.

A combination of sandy stretches and gravel await Dakar’s thrill-seeking competitors as they cruise next through 676km of the formidable trip from Neom to Al Ula in Dakar’s fourth stage before the sandy hills of Ha’il put the navigation skills of competitors to the test while descending south onto Riyadh.

A rest day in the capital will be followed by Dakar Saudi Arabia’s longest stage of 741km as the route takes a turn to the west in the centre of the kingdom’s enormous desert before looping back towards Haradh in the eastern governorate of Al Ahsa, marking the entrance to the Empty Quarter and building up to the grand finale in Qiddiya, a future entertainment, sports and cultural destination, where the winner will be crowned on the final podium.

“Crossing the Dakar finish line is nothing short of living the dream. You can do it on your first go, and sometimes your hopes may be dashed, but ultimately perseverance and clever strategy are most often rewarded. The happiness of these drivers and co-drivers also translates to the satisfaction of the organisers,” explained Castera.

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