The Dakar 2020 route, whose 42nd edition will be held for the first time in Saudi Arabia, was unveiled this Wednesday in Paris. Based on what has been revealed, it seems that the most demanding and famous rally in the world is returning to its origins. The tough and adventurous spirit, so characteristic of its African era, could once again become its trademark.
The route will consist of 7,856 kilometres in total, divided into 12 stages, 5,000 Km of which will be special stages with five of them exceeding 450 kilometres. Competitors will have to deal with a range of terrains, 75 per cent of which will be sand, and will cover a good chunk of the territory of the largest country in the Middle East. All in all, an extreme challenge.
The raid will start on January the 5th in the town of Jeddah, and will end on January the 17th in Al-Qiddiya, 40 kilometres from the capital. The opening stages of the rally will feature hard and stony terrain. Later on, drivers and crew will head south with a rest day on the 11th of January in Riyadh.
The second week will begin on Sunday the 12th with the longest special on the Dakar 2020 route, involving a total of 546 kilometres against the clock between Riyadh and Wadi Al-Dawasir. The longest, 891km-stage, however, will take place on Tuesday the 14th, and it will run from Wadi Al-Dawasir to Haradh.
Wednesday the 15th will mark the start of the super marathon stage (without mechanical assistance), through the vast Empty Quarter desert, to continue on Thursday the 16th until drivers reach the most beautiful dunes of the country in Haradh. The Dakar 2020 route will conclude on Friday the 17th with a 374 km special finishing in Al-Qaddiya potentially keeping things very open right until the end.
Not only desert and dunes
Despite the obvious prominence of the Arabian deserts in the Dakar 2020 route, organizers have assured that there will be much more to it than its natural backdrop. According to those, the itinerary has been designed so that “each stage has its own identity and idiosyncrasies”.
Those words suggest that speed will yield part of its importance to other factors such as navigation. Put another way, the winner will not necessarily be the fastest, but the one that best deals with the many difficulties that will arise during the race. For such type of rally, fast and accurate decision-making will be a key skill for success.
Lower altitude and more ‘benign’ weather conditions
Contrary to previous South American editions, especially those going through Bolivia, the Arabian appointment will not register high altitudes. The highest point of the route will be, in fact, the top of the Jabal al-Lawz mountain or the “Mountain of the Almonds“, at 2,500 meters above sea level.
As far as weather conditions during the race are concerned, there are also bound to be more benevolent than in other latitudes. In Saudi Arabia, the extreme temperatures of the South American summer are uncommon. On the other hand, drivers can expect large thermal oscillations between day and night, typical of desert regions.
Another of this year’s peculiarities will be the fact that in Saudi Arabia it gets darker earlier, which can have an impact on the development of the raid. As a result of this, some might have to complete the stages in complete darkness and surrounded by dunes, with the added difficulty that this represents.
Dakar 2020 route:
Stage 1: 05/1/2020. Jeddah / Al Wajh: 752 km – SS: 319 km
Stage 2: 06/1/2020. Al Wajh / Neom: 401 km – SS: 367 km
Stage 3: 07/1/2020. Neom / Neom: 489 km – SS: 404 km
Stage 4: 08/1/2020. Neom / Al Ula: 676 km – SS: 453 km
Stage 5: 09/1/2020. Al Ula / Ha’il: 563 km – SS: 353 km
Stage 6: 10/1/2020. Ha’il / Riyadh: 830 km – SS: 478 km
Rest day: 11/1/2020. Riyadh
Stage 7: 12/1/2020. Riyadh / Wadi Al-Dawasir: 741 km – SS: 546 km
Stage 8: 13/1/2019. Wadi Al – Dawasir / Wadi Al-Dawasir: 713 km – SS:474 km
Stage 9: 14/1/2020. Wadi Al-Dawasir / Haradh: 891 km: SS: 415 km
Stage 10: 15/1/2020. Haradh / Shubaytah: 608 km – SS: 534 km
Stage 11: 16/1/2020. Shubaytah / Haradh: 744 km – SS: 379 km
Stage 12: 17/1/2020. Haradh / Qiddiyah, 447 km – SS: 374 km
Images of ‘Dakar 2020 route’: Dakar.com