Dakar Rally kicks off Middle East debut in Saudi Arabia

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The tall, golden dunes in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia will play host to the region’s first edition of the Dakar Rally, with drivers from 50 countries making their way to the Kingdom to partake in the race starting Sunday.

Globally accepted as one of the world’s largest off-road rallies, the 42nd edition of the race kicked off, seeing over 350 vehicles driving through stage one – from Jeddah to al-Wajh.


Director notes

David Castera, director of the Dakar rally, confirmed in a statement to Al Arabiya that there has been an increase in participation with nearly 15 pilots from the Middle East.

He also mentioned that moving continents was a challenge after spending 11 years in South America.

“Finding new providers, establishing a new professional network, transforming our working procedures … and the route needs to be designed,” were some of the issues Castera highlighted about staring afresh in the kingdom.

Coverage of the event is facilitated via 15 production trucks, three TV helicopters, and six TV cars.

Competitor feedback

“Incredible opportunities to race,” was the common observation from Sven Quandt’s drivers at team X-Raid. The founder and owner of team X-Raid commended the move as he added: “In South America, I could tell the drivers what they could expect, because we know 80 percent of the routes. So we needed something new.”

He concluded, “The track they’re doing at the moment is incredible. It’s a lot like the old Dakar, longer and more difficult.”

The 12-stage endurance race runs till January 17, and will see a total distance of 7,500 kilometers through the desert, along canyons and wadis, through the Red Sea coastline, and by the mountain regions.

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