Dakar Rally moves to Saudi Arabia for 2020 race

The world-renowned off-road race had moved from Europe and Africa to South America following major security concerns. Now it's headed to "the deep and mysterious deserts" of Saudi Arabia.

Organizers of the world-renowned Dakar Rally said on Monday that the off-road race would be held in "the deep and mysterious deserts of the Middle East, in Saudi Arabia" in 2020.

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The race initially stretched from Paris, France to Dakar, Senegal. However, the route was eventually shifted to South America due to terror threats in Mauritania.

About the race:

  • New details about the new route will be released April 25.
  • The first race took place in 1979 stretched across 10,000 kilometers (6,200 miles) and took 20 days to complete.
  • The race was canceled in 2008 due to terror threats on the Mauritanian leg of the route.
  • It shifted to South America in 2009, where it spent 11 years before moving to the Middle East.
  • Toyota and Peugeot have led the four-wheeled field in the last two years.

Read more: How a young German racecar driver is using passion for cars for good 

Since 1979, the race has gone from its original Paris-Dakar route to South America and now the Middle East

'A new desert'

Dakar Rally director David Castera said "the main idea of the Dakar race is discovery, adventure."

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"I'm already inspired and delighted to have to design a course in such a monumental geography, made for the most audacious itineraries," said Castera, a former rally racer. "We are spoiled for choice. Sports, navigation, a will to surpass oneself: all these aspects will naturally be glorified on this territory made for rally-raids."

Saudi Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki al-Faisal al-Saud, who chairs Saudi Arabia's sports authority, said the Kingdom was "thrilled" to be the next destination for the rally.

"The vision and guidance of our leaders have made our dreams and ambitions limitless and have set the sports scene in the Kingdom on a remarkable success route," al-Saud said. "Our country is extremely passionate about sport and our strategic goal is to feed that appetite."

The oil-rich gulf has started hosting motorsport events of all kinds in the past two decades, establishing major circuits in Bahrain and Abu Dhabi and attracting race series including Formula 1, Moto GP, Formula E and more. 

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ls/msh (AP, AFP)