By on January 5, 2021

Dakar Rally

The Dakar Rally is being contested for the 43rd time, yet it’s only the second year that it is being staged in Saudi Arabia. Last year, the rally demonstrated to the world the Saudis’ ability to organize a global sporting event, bringing the Kingdom to prominence as a regional and international motorsports hub.


Dakar Rally

The landscape of Saudi Arabia is such that it allows for an almost infinite number of routes. While 2020 was the start of the Dakar in the Middle East, the route laid out for 2021 is all-new, the most notable change being reducing the fastest sectors to increase participants’ safety and focus more on navigation.

Dakar Rally

The Dakar competitors and crews first headed to Jeddah, where they spent a few days to comply with health measures taken to shield the rally from COVID-19. Technical and administrative scrutineering took place over the course of two days, January 1st and 2nd, with the Prologue and Start Podium on the 2nd. Three hundred vehicles were on the starting line, nearly as many as the previous year, a testimonial to the teams and organizers, and their commitment to hold the contest despite the worldwide pandemic.

Dakar Rally

On the 3rd, the rally started in Jeddah and finished in Bisha. From Bisha, the competition then headed to Wadi Ad-Dawasir, the second stage. Today, the event circles Wadi Ad-Dawasir, before moving on to Riyadh on Wednesday. The fifth stage reaches Buraydah on Thursday and continues on to Ha’il on Friday, January 8th.

Dakar Rally

The following day, Saturday, January 9th, the entire entourage gets a respite. After that, the Dakar presses on, from Ha’il on Sunday to Sakaka, from Sakaka to Neom on Monday for Stage 8, a roundabout in Neom on Tuesday the 12th to finish Stage 9, Neom to AIUIa on Wednesday, Stage 11 is AIUIa to Yanbu on Thursday, and completing the loop, finishing all 12 stages, and returning to Jeddah on Friday, January 15th.

2021 Dakar rule changes include efforts to level the playing field when it comes to navigation and to slow down the vehicles to make the race safer. The roadbooks already call out danger zones, but now competitors receive aural warnings as they approach hazard level 2 and 3 zones to keep them alert. In hazardous sectors categorized as slow zones, the speed limit will be adjusted accordingly.

Dakar Rally

What keeps pushing the Saudis to produce this spectacle? Their goals are to build a legacy, grow motorsports, and inspire generations of Saudi Arabians. It appears they are off to a pretty good start.

[Images: Amaury Sport Organisation]


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13 Comments on “The Dakar Rally’s Twelve Days and Nights in Saudi Arabia...”

  • avatar


    For the trucks, Russians, Belorussians and Czechs totally occupied everything

  • avatar

    I think one of the biggest challenges motorsports is facing is technology.

    The issue of man and machine and the X factor of “machine” failure isn’t anything it was even 10 years ago. Thirty years ago it was a huge factor. IRL racing (pre-split) and NASCAR were exciting in part because X chassis had this weakness and Y engine had this weakness and would this failure occur before the Z miles were completed or not.

    A lof the reliability issue (not all) has been eliminated, and now it comes down to driver skill. Given the when ranking is done, that for many motorsports categories is very narrow.

    • 0 avatar

      GPS systems are extremely accurate. Navigation is much easier now. Satellite imagery makes planning easier. Motorcyclists are the most skilled. Rules now limit the bikes to 450 cc.

  • avatar

    Russian ballistic rocket launchers would dominate the rally if were allowed to participate.

  • avatar

    The only place less appropriate for Dakar would perhaps be North Korea. Sausi Arabia violates many human rights on an ongoing basis, works hard to spread its intolerant version of Islam throughout the world, and supports extremist and terrorist groups.

    Oh, and capital punishment for gay people.

    But hey, party on dudes!

    TTAC should be ashamed of posting this fawning PR piece.

  • avatar

    Saudi Arabia is not a country I want to support. Love Dakar, but won’t watch it.

  • avatar
    schmitt trigger

    “ What keeps pushing the Saudis to produce this spectacle? ”

    The house of Saud has finally realized what the UAE figured many years ago: oil based revenue is not returning to the OPEC’s glory days.

    Therefore they require to diversify the economy. Again taking a cue from the UAE or Qatar, they are attempting to branch into tourism.
    But as others have already mentioned, their radical Islamist view is a major roadblock if they plan to cater to non-islamic tourism.

  • avatar

    An advertorial of little cunning.

    Expect the ghost of T E Lawrence riding an Ariel Square Four motor bike to take the lead near Neom, cruisin’ easy, fishtail exhausts blatting.

    Saudi Arabia to be a motorsports hub? No women drivers allowed unchaperoned, and no beer for thirsty support crew persons because alcohol is illegal. Yup, sounds like someone had a marketing brainwave.

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