DUBAI: The 2022 Dakar Rally will take place across the deserts of Saudi Arabia between January 2 and 14, it was been announced by Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) and the Saudi Arabian Automobile and Motorcycle Federation (SAMF) in a virtual presentation on Tuesday night.
“Welcome for the third time to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the home of the Dakar Rally, the most famous and toughest rally in the world,” Prince Khalid bin Sultan Al Abdullah Al-Faisal, Chairman of SAMF, said. “Thanks first and foremost to our wise leadership, and guidance of his highness the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and the goal of his Vision 2030, the Kingdom was able to attract and host the Dakar Rally for the first time in 2020, after many years when it moved between Africa and South America.”
David Castera, director of Dakar, discussed the main points regarding the 44th edition of the race, which included the start, finish and rest day cities, in addition to the number of stages the competitors will face in January 2022.
He also spoke of the difficulties of organizing the rally in the middle of the pandemic.
“The 2021 Dakar was complicated to organize,” Castera said. “In the middle of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Dakar was one of the few major events that were held at the beginning of the year. All thanks to Saudi Arabia,” he said. “To all the Saudis who have mobilized with us so that the Dakar can happen, this Dakar allowed you to discover new tracks, new deserts, new dunes and all that gave us quite an incredible show. Suspense in the bike race until the last days when we didn’t know who would win. In the car race as well, until two or three stages from the finish, it was very tight.”
The 2021 edition of the race produced 2,300 hours of television action which were broadcast in more than 190 countries, with 4.5 million also following on social media.
The 2022 Dakar promises some new and unexplored routes.
“It will be an edition with a taste of sand, taste of dunes and wide open spaces,” said Castera. We will head south to the Empty Quarter. We had a first little taste of it in 2020, but this time we’ll go deep down in the Empty Quarter and its ocean of dunes.”
May 17 will see the opening of registration for the race, with the course announcement coming at the end of November. The vehicles will be boarded at Marseille harbor in the second week of December, arriving in Jeddah on Dec. 26-28.
On Dec. 31 and Jan. 1, scrutineering will take place in Ha’il.
“Ha’il will be the start city of this 2022 edition, where all the technical and administrative scrutineering will take place as well as the shakedown,” Castera said. “This year will have three for the three classes — bikes, cars and trucks. Then a prologue on (Jan.) 1st, and the real start of this Dakar will be on the 2nd of January in the morning and will head south towards the Empty Quarter.
“We’ll have three stages with 100 percent sand and dunes, including a marathon stage in the middle of the dunes, like in the good old days,” he added. “And then comes a novelty — we’ll go up to Riyadh for a rest day. During that rest day their will be transfer of vehicles that will be put on trucks, and transfer of competitors in planes.”
Week two will introduce four rather difficult stages, and, according to Castera, a lot of navigation, and more dunes.
“We have based this Dakar on mainly sand and dunes,” he said. “Once you’ve gone through all these obstacles, you’ll arrive in the city of Jeddah, which will welcome the podium ceremony before the vehicles board the ship to head back to Europe.”
The director also confirmed that the second running of the Dakar Classic will take place after its launch last year.
“The Dakar Classic was born last January for its first edition,” he said. “We wanted to pay a tribute to the pioneers of the Dakar, to its founder Thierry Sabine. It was way for us all to see those cars that made us dream in the 1980s and in the 1990s. I can already tell you that we have over 60 crews waiting to take part in an edition that promises to be fantastic."
Prince Khalid also said that preparations by SAMF and the organizers will ensure a spectacular viewing for motorsports fans.
“Today, as we edge closer to hosting the rally for the third successive year, our focus is fixed on the future as we call ups the extensive experience we have gained over the last two years, to arrange another exciting edition of the Dakar Rally,” he said.
“We are blessed with magnificent landscape that few countries can rival. This varied and challenging terrain is the perfect location for the Dakar Rally.
“One of the most special things about the Dakar Rally is that it introduces visitors and spectators alike to the true essence of our nation, with its tolerant culture, striking landscape and welcoming people.”