The 2020 edition of the rally also marks a milestone for the Middle East, with Saudi Arabia becoming the first country in the region to play host to the challenge, gaining the right to hold it for the next five years. The 13-day off-road race that was founded on a love of desert driving will see more than 550 drivers from 62 nations contest in 12 stages while exploring the vast and formidable desert terrains of the largest country in the region.
Sheikh Abdulla bin Isa Al Khalifa, President of Bahrain’s Motor Federation said: “This is as much a moment of pride for Bahrain, as it is for our region. Our participation shows Bahrain’s advances in the motorsports world, inspired no doubt by Bahrain’s pioneering move to host the Formula One Grand Prix since 2004.”
“An event of such global magnitude presented the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia with a monumental opportunity to showcase its unique natural landscape, as well as its keenness and enthusiasm to bring global sporting events to the country and the region.”
Sven Quandt, owner of the German motorsport team X-raid, a specialist in cross-country rallying, which will be taking part in the rally explained: “This is a big achievement for Bahrain, which is already making its presence felt on global stage. The country’s participation adds another dimension to its vision to be a nation that hosts, supports, organises, develops and participates in the success of the global sports movement.”
The rally will be flagged off in the Red Sea port city of Jeddah and conclude in the capital, Riyadh, covering 7,500 kilometres. The route will pass through some of the vital and most picturesque destinations in Saudi Arabia, including the UNESCO World Heritage site of Al Ula in the north-west; Tabouk region in the north-west, which is home to the futuristic Neom-city project; the ancient Ha’il region; and Wadi Al Dawasir in Najd province, which is being developed in the middle of the desert as a new urban centre.
The Dakar Rally is the latest in a series of sporting events to be hosted in Saudi Arabia, with both Race of Champions (ROC) and Formula E hosting rounds having been held in Riyadh, apart from the FIA-backed Middle East Rally Championship.
The Dakar Rally, an annual event which was first launched in Paris 1979, ran from Europe to the Senegalese city it is named after for decades, then moved to South America in 2009, where it remained until now.