From near-death in Libyan desert to Saudi Arabia in 40 years: A history of the Dakar Rally

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A new and exciting chapter in the prestigious history of the Dakar Rally is ready to be written as the world’s biggest and most challenging rally confirmed it will debut in Saudi Arabia in January 2020. (Supplied)
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A new and exciting chapter in the prestigious history of the Dakar Rally is ready to be written as the world’s biggest and most challenging rally confirmed it will debut in Saudi Arabia in January 2020. (Supplied)
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A new and exciting chapter in the prestigious history of the Dakar Rally is ready to be written as the world’s biggest and most challenging rally confirmed it will debut in Saudi Arabia in January 2020. (Supplied)
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A new and exciting chapter in the prestigious history of the Dakar Rally is ready to be written as the world’s biggest and most challenging rally confirmed it will debut in Saudi Arabia in January 2020. (Supplied)
Updated 25 April 2019
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From near-death in Libyan desert to Saudi Arabia in 40 years: A history of the Dakar Rally

  • Race will start in Jeddah and make a stop in Riyadh before ending in Qiddiya
  • Take a look back at the most momentous moments

LONDON: A new and exciting chapter in the prestigious history of the Dakar Rally is ready to be written as the world’s biggest and most challenging rally confirmed it will debut in Saudi Arabia in January 2020.

1977: Inspiration
Biker Thierry Sabine gets lost in the Libyan desert while competing in the Abidjan-Nice Rally. After being rescued from the sands on the verge of death, he vows to share the scale and magic of the desert with the whole world.

1978: A dream come true
On 26 December 1978, a field of 170 adventurers starts its 10,000-kilometer quest through Algeria, Niger, Mali, the Upper Volta, and Senegal. A total of 74 vehicles make it to the finish on Place de l’Indépendance in Dakar, with Cyril Neveu at the helm.

1983: Ickx on all fronts
Celebrities and the best drivers and riders in the world heed the call of the Dakar. The combination is a successful one, with the six-time winner of the 24 Hours of Le Mans Jacky Ickx and comedian Claude Brasseur taking the spoils in the fourth edition.

1986: Tragedy strikes
Thierry Sabine and Daniel Balavoine die in a helicopter crash alongside pilot François-Xavier Bagnoud, journalist Nathalie Odent and radio technician Jean-Paul Lefur. Gilbert Sabine, the father of the creator of the race, takes over as director.

1992: Africa from north to south
The Dakar takes a break from the capital of Senegal to pit the competitors against the challenge of a lifetime. The drivers and riders have to tackle a route of almost 12,500 kilometers through 11 countries to cross Africa from one side to the other and reach Cape Town in South Africa. Stéphane Peterhansel (motorbikes) and Hubert Auriol (cars) stand atop the podium at the end of the Odyssey.

1998: Peterhansel rolls a six
The biker with a blue bandana emerges victorious from a clash of titans with Orioli and Arcarons to become the undisputed master of the category in the 1990s. His sixth win catapults him past Cyril Neveu as the event record holder. “Peter” has since added seven car victories to his tally!

2000: At the foot of the pyramids
The Dakar marks the turn of the century next to one of the seven wonders of the world: the Great Pyramid of Giza. Reigning champions Richard Sainct (motorbikes) and Jean-Louis Schlesser (cars) both manage to defend their titles against this prestigious backdrop.

2001: Miss Dakar
No one suspects that this will be the last Paris–Dakar. In contrast, everyone sees Jutta Kleinschmidt, who had made her Dakar debut in 1988 on a motorbike, become the first woman to win the rally, this time racing at the wheel of a Mitsubishi 4×4. She remains the only female winner of the event to date.

2009: Rising from the ashes in Buenos Aires
The Dakar picks itself up and crosses the Atlantic to rise from the ashes. A new era dawns with 4 million spectators turning out in force to cheer on the drivers and riders in the majestic landscapes of Argentina and Chile.

2012: Pacific Challenge
After three years with a route starting and ending in Buenos Aires, the organizers break the mold with a finish on the Pacific coast of Lima, Peru.

2014: Dizzying heights
Bolivia becomes the 28th country to host the Dakar. The Altiplano and Salar de Uyuni introduce a new test for the competitors: extreme altitude, which takes a toll on both their bodies and their machines.

2020: Chapter 3
In the wake of its first foray into Paraguay in 2017, the Dakar adds the 30th country to its list. In Saudi Arabia, the largest country on the Arabian Peninsula, the competitors will face challenges such as the “Empty Quarter,” a pristine expanse that has never been explored fully before.


Greenhouse effect: Roland Garros unveils new look after years of legal wrangles

Updated 24 May 2019
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Greenhouse effect: Roland Garros unveils new look after years of legal wrangles

PARIS: After years of legal battles and threats to quit its historic home, Roland Garros will show off its new look next week, with a nod to the Eiffel Tower and a World War II resistance fighter while boasting enough plants and greenery to make even the most demanding environmentalist drool.

Ninety years after it was built, the French Open’s showpiece Court Philippe Chatrier was demolished soon after the 2018 event finished.

Fast forward 12 months and it has been almost completely rebuilt to accommodate the necessary strengthening required to support the retractable roof which will be in place for the 2020 edition of the sport’s only clay court Grand Slam.

The metal superstructure weighs half that of the Eiffel Tower, around 3,700 tons, said the French Tennis Federation’s director-general Jean-François Vilotte.

The roof will eventually allow for night sessions to be played even if Roland Garros still lags behind similar developments at the other three Slams.

The Australian Open has three covered courts already while Wimbledon and the US Open boast two retractable roofs apiece.

The 15,000-capacity Chatrier has expanded its shape and size, adding wooden seats to replace its aging green plastic.

Only the famous red clay of the court itself — where the likes of Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Serena Williams, Naomi Osaka and Simona Halep will star from this weekend — has remained unchanged.

“We protected it, we put a concrete slab on it all the winter during the work,” said Gilles Jourdan, the head of the modernization project which is believed to cost an overall €350 million. “But the sweat of Mr.Lacoste is still there,” he added in reference to one of France’s greatest tennis icons, a three-time winner in Paris during the 1920s.

This year’s tournament will also see the debut of Court Simonne-Mathieu, a 5,000-seat arena named in honor of a World War II resistance hero and a former Roland Garros champion.

The semi-sunken arena was a controversial development inside the nearby Jardin des Serres d’Auteuil, one of the capital’s most beloved green spaces.

It was only last May that the French federation emerged successful after five bruising years of bitter legal battles with environmentalists and well-connected local residents worried over the impact such construction would have over the gardens’ 19th century greenhouses.

At one stage, exasperated Roland Garros chiefs toyed with the idea of upping sticks out of Paris to start afresh in the suburbs.

But the court has been built, enclosed by four greenhouses housing “the only plant ecosystem of its kind,” say organizers of hosting collections from South America, Africa, South-East Asia and Australia.

The 10,000-seater Court Suzanne Lenglen remains although Roland Garros’ Court One ‘bullring’ is earmarked for demolition once the 2019 tournament ends.

In other changes this year, the west of Suzanne Lenglen has also undergone a radical transformation with six new courts built to supplement Court 14 which was a fresh addition in 2018.