Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Sports unveiled on Thursday the details of the second edition of Dakar Rally to be held in the Kingdom. For the 2021 edition, organisers have officially released the route map and revised rules, which will once again take place in Saudi Arabia.
The second edition of the Dakar Rally in Saudi Arabia, scheduled to run from January 3 to 15 next year, will start and finish in Jeddah after venturing through the desert and along the Red Sea, organisers revealed on Thursday. The new rules will focus on making the gruelling twelve-day marathon safer and also see the introduction of a new ‘Dakar Classic’ category.
Although some of the towns and cities that hosted the bivouac last January will be returning, the rally will take place in a loop course this time around, beginning and ending in Jeddah. Competitors will set off from Jeddah towards the east and then head north, with a rest day in Ha’il on Jan 9, before tracing the Red Sea coastline back to the finish.
2020 saw the Dakar Rally kick off a new chapter in Saudi Arabia, ending the event’s decade-long stint in South America. It was suggested that organisers could add a second country to the 2021 edition, with Egypt and Jordan listed as possible host countries. However, it has now been confirmed that the 2021 Dakar Rally will once again run entirely in Saudi Arabia, largely due to COVID-19-related travel restrictions.
New Safety Measures
Following the deaths of two motorcyclists, Portugal’s Paulo Goncalves and Dutchman Edwin Straver, at this year’s rally, new safety measures will be introduced in 2021. In this edition of the Rally, airbag vests will be made mandatory for all bike and quad riders. These vests are already in use in MotoGP and have proven to reduce the severity of injury in a serious crash.
While the roadbook already highlights danger zones, competitors in the 2021 edition will also receive aural warnings in the approach to difficulty 2 and 3 zones to keep them alert. Additionally, especially tricky and hazardous sectors will be categorised as ‘slow zones’ where speed will be limited to 90kph.
Further, the 2021 edition of the rally will also invite time penalties to be applied starting from the second piston change even if the rest of the engine remains the same, as well as the complete prohibition for bikers to work on their motorbikes at refuelling stations. Not only this, but no tyre changes will also be allowed in the car category during the marathon stage – not even between competitors. Meanwhile, all the elite bike competitors will only be allowed a total of six rear tyres for the entire rally. Therefore, the participants need to be careful not to push their machines too hard.
Lastly, the 2021 Dakar will also take a trip down memory lane with the launch of the Dakar Classic. In parallel with the main race, a test of consistency will be held for vehicles that took part in the Dakar or other major rally-raid events before the 2000s, as a tribute to the event’s roots.
The event, launched in 1979 with its original route between Paris and the Senegalese capital Dakar, moved to Saudi Arabia this year after a decade in South America, a decision which sparked an angry reaction from many quarters.