Dakar Route 2022: More sand, more participants and more challenges

In less than a month’s time, the engines are to start roaring for the start of the legendary race. Here we take a look at this edition’s Dakar Route 2022, which is to be held entirely in Saudi Arabia for the third consecutive year from January 1 to 14. 

The 44th edition of the famous rally will cover a distance of 8,177 kilometres divided into a prologue and twelve competitive stages with a rest day at the mid-point. In total 52% of the total distance (4,254 k) will be timed, 500 kilometres less than in 2021, although the total distance will be greater. 

The sand is also to gain greater prominence at this most challenging and unpredictable of editions, where between 60 and 70% of the route is brand new. Race director, David Castera, has again given the navigation aspect of racing a central role in the Dakar challenge. At the same time, the electronic roadbook, which was first released last year, will be extended to all of the participants this time around. 

After the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a fall in registrations at the previous edition and even though some applicants had to be left out, the number of participants has now raised significantly to tackle.   

Technical verifications will take place in Jeddah from December 29 to December 31, before the action begins on January 1. To get into the swing of things, this year’s adventurers will tackle an 834-kilometre link leg, the longest of the rally, and a 19-kilometre prologue which will help establish the starting order of the first stage. The first ten classified in the prologue will therefore be able to choose the starting order of the opening special and their times will also compute for the overall standings 

Contrary to the previous edition, the dreaded marathon stages will make an appearance right at the beginning at the second (Ha’il-Al Artawiyah) and third (Al Artawiyah-Al Qasimuah) stages on January the 3 and 4. There, competitors will not be able to receive outside assistance and it is therefore very likely that important differences begin to emerge in the classification. 


The Empty Quarter is gone  

Another major difference with the Dakar 2021 is the absence of the Empty Quarter. After the rest day, which is scheduled for January 8, participants will leave Riyadh behind for southern Saudi Arabia. 

It is in that southern region of the country where the immense and legendary desert known as the Empty Quarter is located, which, on this occasion, will not feature in the Rally. The logistical complexity of crossing its vast expanse, which would involve the airlifting of all vehicles and crew, was deemed too great for Dakar director, David Castera, who decided to avoid that area.  

In order to keep things exciting right until the end of the event, the most difficult stage, with the greater number and most complex dunes of all, has been left for the penultimate day. 

More participants and more women 

A total of 1,065 adventurers are to take the start of the Dakar 2022 in the town of Ha’il. Of those, 750 pilots and co-pilots are registered for the Dakar and 315 for the Dakar Classic. There will be a total of 578 vehicles (97 cars, 149 motorcycles, 58 trucks, 21 quads, 44 T3, 61 T4, 128 Classic cars and 20 Classic trucks). 

This figure represents a significant increase in the registration’s numbers of 2021, which was hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. Also, there has been a notable rise in the number of women this year, which has gone from 16 in 2021 to 60, 34 of which are registered for the Dakar Classic modality.IN addition to this, five of the crews will consist exclusively of women. As for the 63 nationalities represented in Saudi Arabia, France (196), Spain (81) and Holland (67) have the largest number of participants. 

Images of Dakar Route 2022: Dakar.com.

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