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A new chapter in the Dakar Rally story has opened with the official presentation of the 2020 edition due to take place in Saudi Arabia. After Africa and South America, the Middle East now takes up the baton of the rally-raid race par excellence. New details were unveiled yesterday in Paris.
With an audience crowded with future participants and various team leaders, the Dakar 2020 Race Director, David Castera outlined more details of the race which was first presented in Saudi Arabia a month ago. In a meeting which took place at the Institute of the Arab World in the French capital, Castera confirmed the race’s course will cover some 9000 kilometres to be tackled over a fortnight with 12 stages, as well as other as yet unknown details about the Middle East’s maiden Dakar

After sending the participating vehicles by maritime transport from South of France to Saudi Arabia, the team will recover them in the port of Jeddah on New Year’s Day 2019. The build-up to the race will take place in the country’s second largest city, as events get underway with the ceremonial starting ramp on January 4. The start of the first stage is scheduled for January 5. The rest day will be held on January 11 in the country’s capital, Riyadh, and the event will conclude in Al Qiddiya on January 17 where the final podium and celebrations will take place.

Furthermore, other data, as yet unknown, was revealed by Castera to those present at the conference, including a prohibition of any training in Saudi Arabia, the distribution of roadbook prior to the stage, the creation of a Super Marathon stage for motorcycles (there will be two marathon days) plus a varied route design, which will cover different types of terrain in the Arab country.

Monster Energy Honda Team has confirmed its inscription for this new edition of the most veteran Cross-Country Rally in the world, and it will do so with a mixed team which will line-up experience alongside ambition.

The riders of the Monster Energy Honda Team will participate, this July, in the Silk Way Rally, the second round of the FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship to be held in Russia, Mongolia and China.

Source Monster Energy Honda Team's official press release

Key points 
  • The 42nd edition of the Dakar will be held in Saudi Arabia, the largest country on the Arabian Peninsula, from 5 to 17 January. The rally, which began its nomadic life in Africa and then jumped to South America, has made Asia its new home. 
  • Jeddah, the economic heart of the country, will host the start of the rally, launching a journey of more than 9,000 kilometres to the future Qiddiya complex, not far from Riyadh, where the rest day will take place. A press conference was held in Qiddiya in the presence of His Royal Highness Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki AlFaisal Al Saud and His Royal Highness Prince Khalid bin Sultan Abdullah Al Faisal. Among the guests, Laia Sanz, Stéphane and Andréa Peterhansel, Carlos Sainz, Giniel De Villiers, Nani Roma, Adrien Van Beveren, Joan Barreda, Sam Sunderland and, of course, local hero Yazeed Al-Rajhi have already put their names down for the race.   

Come January 2020, the Dakar will make its first foray into its 30th host country, Saudi Arabia. After three decades in Africa and eleven editions held in South America, the drivers, riders and crews of the greatest rally on Earth are invited to write a new chapter of its history in the largest country in the Middle East. The lands of Saudi Arabia, extending from the Red Sea in the west to the Arabian Gulf in the east, contain vast desert expanses with a mosaic of terrains and all the ingredients for a well-rounded route in line with the mentality of rally raids: rewarding competent driving and riding and speed, putting navigational skills to the test and pushing the stamina of the competitors to the limit. 
Classic Dakar concepts such as adventure and discovery will feature heavily in the rally as it heads into these sparsely inhabited regions where the drivers and riders have never raced before. The uncharted terrain will make sure that none of the pretenders to the crown has a home field advantage. The mountain areas near the border with Jordan will take the competitors deep into a maze of valleys, while the dunes in the "Empty Quarter" —some of which rise to over 250 metres high— will set the stage for dune-surfers to shine. 
The South American connection 
Argentina, Chile, Peru, Bolivia and Paraguay have hosted the Dakar for a decade. Their jaw-dropping landscapes stole the hearts of drivers, riders and TV viewers around the world, as did the warm welcome of the aficionados on the roadsides. In order to preserve the rally's links with South America, whose drivers, co-drivers and riders made up about a third of the field in 2019, a battery of measures will be taken to facilitate the shipment of vehicles and provide communication tools. 
His Royal Highness Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki AlFaisal Al Saud, Chairman of the Saudi Arabia General Sports Authority “We are thrilled that Rally Dakar, an event with a huge global appeal, is coming to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Middle East for the first time. Saudi Dakar 2020 will be a journey through breath taking scenery, unknown landscapes, unexpected challenges, untold stories and unbelievable memories. Together, Saudi Arabia & the Dakar Rally will write a new chapter and tell a new story, a story of how the greatest race on Earth and the most ambitious social mission on the planet - Vision 2030 – united to redefine the human adventure.” 
David Castera, director of the Dakar “Africa, South America… and now Asia. The third chapter of its history is particularly fascinating and exciting for a race focused on exploration like the Dakar. Here, in the largest state in the region, we can let our imagination run riot with the infinite possibilities for a tough, balanced and varied course. The sporting challenge that we are putting together for the 42nd edition will tap the full potential of this vast country and its mosaic of deserts, mountains, canyons, valleys and coastal landscapes.” 

Source Dakar official press release

While ASO keeps being silent about the next year's route of the Dakar Rally, the number of rumours, comments and social media posts keep increasing day by day about the possibility of the new edition of the "world's hardest race" taking place in the Middle East.

Just a few days ago we reported about the very strong possibility for the Dakar 2020 to be held in Saudi Arabia and Jordania, but recently Egypt joined to the "group" of possible host countries. This time it was a social media post made by Brazilian Reinaldo Varela and the defending Dakar champion Nasser Al-Attiyah who added more wood to the fire. In this post, the two famous drivers said that next year's Dakar Rally would take place in Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt.

The crescendo of news about the Middle East possibility completely obliterated the previous version about Angola, Namibia, Botswana and South Africa to be the hosts of a much more southern route.  Some wise men say that when there is smoke, there is a fire burning somewhere, but until ASO speaks out and reveals the route, all options remain open, including staying in South America or even returning to Africa but to other destinations, like Algeria.

In this video uploaded to Youtube by Paulo Alves you can see both drivers making the revelation

Rally-Raid Network
The dust has already settled after the end of the 2019 Dakar Rally, it’s time to look back to the good and bad days in Peru. Although in terms of the number of race days and kilometres it was shorter, the 2019 edition of Dakar Rally is considered by most competitors as one of the toughest ever. For Tomas Ourednicek, however, it has been the most successful so far both in terms of the overall position and stage results: together with co-driver David Kripal he finished the 41st Dakar Rally in an excellent 17th position and clocked the 15th fastest time in Stage 9 in a huge and star-studded field, finishing for the fifth time in six Dakars and all three as a driver. In category T1.1 the crew scored the 8th place.

“On the first day, the fuel was burning, but despite that we finished as the fastest Czechs on four wheels which was a quite promising start for us. In the second stage, unfortunately, we lost the 6th gear and that slowed us down significantly, but apart from these we had no major technical issue with the car. But we decided to take a more cautious approach and to concentrate on reaching the finish line because we realised quite soon that this year’s Dakar is maybe more dangerous than ever, there were many terrible accidents.”

Unfortunately, Tomas and David also experienced this darker side of the Dakar in Stage 4.

“We tried to overtake a car and the wind was blowing from the right side. We tried to pass him on the right side, but he was probably not seeing us, and was pulling a little bit to the right, in our way, so we had to pull to the right, too, to avoid the crash. But there was a big hole there and we crashed into it at high speed. The hit was really horrible! In the first moment I was expecting the car to roll, but fortunately we stayed on the wheels. When we got out of the car, we were surprised to see that the car was not damaged at all, only the front plate bent and our throttle pedal was gone,”

the driver explains their hardest moment in the race.

The last days of the rally brought milestones in the racing career of Tomas and David: their best stage result, an excellent 15th position in Stage 9 and a fantastic 17th place in the overall classification at the end of the rally. The 17th place has a special meaning for Tomas personally: his daughter celebrated her 12th birthday on the 17th January, the day of the finish and asked her father to bring home the 17th place for her as a birthday present – well, mission completed!
For co-driver David Kripal this was the second participation in the Dakar Rally. After the successful but very adventurous 2018 edition the contrast was huge…

“This year’s Dakar was completely different than my first one last year. This year we had almost no technical problems and no stories, but we returned home with a 17th place which is a quite good result for us. As for navigation, this year’s roadbook wasn’t really informative, it practically only contained the directions and almost no information about the dangers and this is reflected in the many accidents. Tomas did a very good job during the whole race and we are very happy with our result.” 

“The team and the car worked perfectly. It has been my best Dakar so far, not just for the result itself but also for being part of such a very well organised, truly professional team, and there is a good chance for this cooperation to continue. But the first task is to recover fully, to bring my body in a hundred percent shape and only after these can I start thinking about races.
I would like to say thanks to all who helped us on our way from the accident to the start of the Dakar and throughout the race, especially to Martin Prokop and all his team. I’m very grateful that our sponsors stayed with us in the hard times and kept supporting us also when the future wasn’t clear at all. Their trust was a great drive for us to find a way to be able to take part in the Dakar. And I also want to say big thanks to all our fans, the support we got through social media and other channels was really touching and inspiring,”

concludes Tomas Ourednicek.
Finally, after confirmation by race organizers, the Dakar 2020 was unveiled today in Saudi Arabia, where the event will be hosted over the next five years. Monster Energy Honda Team was present at the event held in Riyadh.

Monster Energy Honda Team has officially confirmed its participation in the next Dakar odyssey. Joan Barreda was on hand for the presentation of the 2020 edition of the Dakar Rally, which took place today in the Qiddiya complex, some 50 kilometres from the Saudi capital Riyadh. Barreda, with 22 wins, is currently the rider in the motorcycle category with the highest number of stage victories

The vast yet unknown Saudi Arabian desert, in particular the Rub Al-Jali, will be the new stage for the forthcoming Dakar. This is the second change of continent since the great adventure, created by Thierry Sabine in 1978, left Africa and headed for South America after the suspension of the 2008 edition. After 11 editions on the American continent, from 2020 onwards, the Dakar Rally will have the Middle East as its arena, or more precisely, Saudi Arabia, which becomes the first country in the Arabian peninsula to host the legendary rally.

The first details to emerge, at the first major official presentation of the race, are the start and finish dates, plus the rest day. The Dakar 2020 will kick off on January 5th in Jeddah, on the coast of the Red Sea, and will end on the 17th of the same month in Qiddiya, after having enjoyed a rest day in the country’s capital, Riyadh.

As usual, the Dakar Rally will be the final race in Monster Energy Honda Team’s competition calendar. The other dates will include – in addition to several tests and some international competitions – the participation of most of the team’s factory riders in all FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship events.

Raul Castells - Monster Energy Honda Team Manager:   "We had been waiting for the Dakar to change continent and visit some new landscapes. Everything will be brand new, for the most part, and it adds a great incentive to the race. As always, the ASO will organize the event with their best guarantees. It will be a new test and a new challenge for all. We accept the decision and we are also anxious to get the new adventure started and see what the Middle Eastern race will bring us for us. On the other hand, we wish to thank all the South American public and the countries that have hosted the Dakar over the eleven editions and also Honda South America for the support they have given us in our seven participations in the Americas. Hopefully this new adventure in Saudi Arabia, for at least five years, will be a favourable one. We will try our hardest to win the race."

SourceMonster Energy Honda Team's official press release

After 30 years of discovering the beauty of Africa and a decade of adventure exploring the spectacular landscape of South America, a new chapter inthe history of Dakar will be written as the world's biggest rally makes its Middle East debut in Saudi Arabia.
The mega event offers drivers more than just a journey.The rally will be an opportunity for those who dare to test themselves in an unknown landscape and an uncharted terrain, setting the scene for the optimum stage to prove their driving skills, navigational prowess and knack for a challenge.

More details about the groundbreaking event will be announced at a press conference on 25 April in Al Qiddiya near the Saudi capital of Riyadh.

His Royal Highness Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki AlFaisal Al Saud, Chairman of the Saudi Arabia General Sports Authority
"The vision and guidance of our leaders have made our dreams and ambitions limitless and have set the sports scene in the Kingdom ona remarkable success route. Today we are thrilled to announce that Rally Dakar.an event with a huge global appeal is coming to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Middle East for the first time. our country is extremely passionate about sport and our strategic goal is to feed that appetite as we move further towards achievingVision 2030. of which sport is a basic pillar. In hosting Dakar Rally we aim to produce an unbeli£'11able and unforgettable experience for drivers as they discC111er the beauty of Saudi nature and a unique spectacle for motorsport fans not only in Saudi Arabia but also in the region and around the world."

HRH Prince Khalid Bin Sultan Abdullah Al Faisal, Chairman of the Saudi Arabian Motor Federation
"I have always wanted  to  participate in Dakar Rally. While I wasn't fortunate  to achieve that ambition. I'm now part of achi£'11ing a much bigger dream for mv country as Dakar comes to the Middle East region for the first time ever.
The vision and support of HRHPrince Muhammad BinSalmanand the trust that GSA president HRH Prince Abdul Aziz Bin TUrki Al Faisal had put in uswere key to our efforts to secure the hosting rights for an event of such a global magnitude."

David Castera, Director of the Dakar
"Looking back at my first memories of the Dakar and my first experiences as a competitor.l'Ve always considered that this rally like no other carried a concept of discovery, a voyage into the unknown. SV going to Saudi Arabia.it is of course that aspect that fascinatesme.I'm convincedthat such a feeling will beshared by allthe riders.drivers and copilots.As the director of the £'\lent. it's a massive chalenge to befaced with a blank page with limitless possibilities. I'm already inspired and delighted to have to design a course in such a monumental geography, made for the most audacious itineraries. we are spoilt for choice. Sports.navigation.a will to surpass oneself: all these aspects will naturally be glorified on this territory made for rally-raids."

Source Dakar Rally's official press release
Since the Dakar Rally has left the African continent, many news, comments, rumors and opinions showed up in the news and in social media every single year about the possibility of returning to the origins. If in many cases those comments had something (almost) real behind,  in many others were nothing more than episodes in the "entrinchered war" of Pro-Dakar fans versus Anti-Dakar people.
But this time it looks like something very real is happening and the Dakar could have already packed and is ready to leave South America, even if the new location is not exactly in the "birthplace" of the Dakar. Last week, the Angolan Federation of Motorsports (FADM) discussed the possibility of the Dakar Rally realization in Angola in January 2020. The official text FADM published, it is written exactly that the members of FADM were informed about the possibility of the organization and passage of the Dakar Rally in January 2020, in a route including Angola and Namibia.
In the text we had access to nothing is told about South Africa, but some sources say that the rally could also include that country. This is not the first time that these possible route come to light, and is maybe the most likely of all possibilities.
There are yet other solutions for Dakar 2020 that are being commented, in other countries in Africa and in the Middle east.

Rally-Raid Network

The grandiose and varied landscapes of the 30th country to host the Dakar have all the ingredients for a well-rounded route. The same diversity characterises the three cities that will mark the decisive phases of the rally. Jeddah symbolises the country’s deep historical roots, while the capital Riyadh evokes the power of a kingdom resolutely turned towards the future, as exemplified by the Qiddiya project.

Home to 3.5 million people, the second-largest city in the country is also its economic heart thanks to its commercial port on the Red Sea, which goes back to the 7th century. Just for once, the gateway to the holy cities of Mecca and Medina will also be a launch pad for the drivers, riders and crews of the Dakar. King Fahd’s Fountain, which ejects water at a speed of 375 km/h, and Jeddah Tower, which will soon reach a height of 1,001 m, will inspire the competitors with grandiose ideas and a burning ambition.

The sprawling orchards that gave the city its name («gardens» in Arabic) in the 18th century have mostly given way to an urban area extending over more than 1,500 km2 (versus 105 km2 for Paris and 203 km2 for Buenos Aires) and home to over six million people. The demographic growth of the capital since the 1970s has gone hand in hand with the building of striking skyscrapers born from revolutionary architectural ideas, including the 267 m Al Faisaliyah Centre, 302 m Kingdom Centre and 307 m Burj Rafal.

The Dakar will be the first world-class sporting event held in Al Qiddiya, a city whose foundation stone was laid in 2018 and which will be focused on entertainment and culture. The vast complex, located about 40 kilometres from Riyadh, will include attractions such as a theme and amusement park, world-class sports facilities and multidisciplinary art centres. It is set to open to the public in 2022.

A supersized rally
Saudi Arabia stretches over more than two million square kilometres —about four times the surface area of France. The largest country in the Middle East, whose population is concentrated in the towns and cities close to the sea, boasts a mosaic of landscapes that will put Dakar competitors through their paces on all fronts: driving and riding, navigation and endurance. It is a call to adventure.

A STRAIGHT RUN  To explore the contrasts
The available spaces offer the opportunity to take competitors on a real tour of Saudi Arabia, with each stage having its own specific landscape and idiosyncrasies. A wide range of landscapes will colour the rally, including canyons, dunes, mountains, wadis and more. It is a delight for the senses… and an ordeal for bodies and vehicles.

NAVIGATION  Heading south
Close to the border with Jordan, mountain climbers can crown Jabal el Lawz —the Mountain of Almonds—, peaking at over 2,500 metres above sea level. For Dakar competitors, however, this vast mountain region that extends all t he way to Ha’il Region will be more of a maze. Top navigators will be able to make the difference by staying on course as they zigzag their way through the valleys.

THE "EMPTY QUARTER" Sand as far as the eye can see
In the far south of the country, almost a quarter of the country remains unsettled except for a handful of villages and oases. This immense and pristine area gives rally raid lovers a lot to work with. Even expert dune surfers will be put through the wringer with dunes over 250 metres high, while lesser drivers and riders are in for a very bad time.

Source Dakar
The Tribunal National de Discipline et d’Arbitrage of the FFM rules in favour of Kevin Benavides and Monster Energy Honda Team

The TNDA has accepted the case presented by Kevin Benavides and Monster Energy Honda Team to the French Motorcycle Federation to overturn a penalty imposed in the recent 2019 Dakar.
The president of the French Motorcycle Federation had decided to request that the Tribunal National de Discipline et d’Arbitrage reverse a decision made by the race jury after the performance of rider Kevin Benavides during stage 7 of the 2019 Dakar Rally, after Monster Energy Honda Team had filed an appeal against it.
The case, recently presented to the FFM’s Tribunal National de Discipline et d’Arbitrage – the TNDA (French abbreviations) by Monster Energy Honda Team’s Argentinean rider has been resolved with the Court issuing a ruling, on March 4, 2019, nullifying the decision of the rally’s international jury who had imposed a hefty sanction on Kevin Benavides on January 15th.
The TNDA, after having weighed up the different statements presented to the Tribunal National de Discipline et d’Arbitrage, ruled in favour of the Argentinean, outlining that Kevin Benavides had in no way violated race rules. Paragraph 3 of Article 17P2 had been replaced with a new paragraph, dated January 8th 2019 at 18:30, with an additional text also added on January 15th, indicating “the prohibition of adding additional notes on the motorcycle, in the rider’s kit or on any part of his body or any other means of support”, which was published after the rider had already received the 3-hour sanction.
Thus, in overturning the jury’s decision from January 15th and deciding in favour of the team, the overall final standings of the race have been modified and Benavides has his 3-hour penalty annulled. In the new final 2019 Dakar Rally rankings, Benavides occupies fifth overall position.

1 PRICE Toby 3 AUS Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team 33:57'16
2 WALKNER Matthias 1 AUT Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team 34:06'29
3 SUNDERLAND Sam 14 GBR Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team 34:10'50
4 QUINTANILLA Pablo 6 CHI Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing 34:18'02
5 BENAVIDES Kevin 47 ARG Monster Energy Honda Team 34:38'30
6 SHORT Andrew 29 USA Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing 34:41'26
7 DE SOULTRAIT Xavier 18 FRA Yamalube Yamaha Official Rally Team 34:51'16
8 CORNEJO José Ignacio 10 CHI Monster Energy Honda Team 35:05'22
9 BENAVIDES Luciano 77 ARG Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team 35:06'26
10 MENA Oriol 7 SPA Hero Motorsports Team Rally 36:06'57 

Source Monster Energy Honda Team's official press release
The "Dakar Rally" could be ready to leave South America and move to the Middle East

A few weeks ago it was Angola's option that received the biggest attention from the media (us included) when the local federation made some publications about the prospect of hosting the Dakar Rally already in 2020. The same federation even shared an image with the "possible route" crossing Angola, Namibia, Botswana and South Africa. 
But while Angola's option showed up as a strong possibility many times in the past few weeks, also Saudi Arabia is gaining strength and appearing to be a strong contender to host the next edition of the "hardest rally in the world".
All these possibilities show up because ASO has found itself in a very complicated situation in keeping organizing the Dakar Rally in South America. Not only the governments have little will to pay the sums of money the French organizer demands to host the rally in their country, but also they change minds very rapidly, leaving the organizers (and the teams) in deep troubles, since this is an event that takes months to prepare and for some racers it takes years. Sudden or last minute changes aren't welcome by anyone. With the apparent "lock down" of South America, ASO is forced to search new ground for the Dakar Rally, and Saudi Arabia comes into play as a strong option.
The news about the negotiations aren't new, but today they gained a renewed strength after some posts on Social Media made by local Saudi drivers who say the Dakar Rally is confirmed in Saudi Arabia not only for 2020, but also until 2024, which means five editions in the Arabian Peninsula.
Some other unofficial sources also tell that the Dakar Rally could cross the border to Jordan, with the two countries hosting the race.



In the first days of the 41st edition of Dakar Rally, Aron Domżała’s and Maciej Marton’s participation promised a fantastic debut. However, the legendary super marathon doesn’t save anyone - neither veterans, nor rookies. The Polish crew, right in the middle of the rally, unluckily lost the chance of reaching the finish line. 

“The debut had a bitter taste –the driver from Warsaw admitted right after his comeback to the country. – But it also had a bright side.”

The story of the young and promising duo can be compared to what happened to one of the most experienced bikers from Honda factory team. Joan Barreda strayed from the track and got into a deep canyon with steep slopes, from which he couldn’t get his bike out himself. The difference was that Aron Domżała and Maciej Marton made no major navigational mistake. They strayed from the track in the thick fog, because of which the organizers shortened the special a while later.

“We had to say goodbye to the rally only at the halfway in a way that was difficult to predict – we got stuck in a trap with no way out,” 

reported Aron Domżała. 

Summarizing team’s competition, the driver also pointed out the bright sides: 

“We consistently stuck to our plan, which was constant driving without flat tires, getting stuck in sand, navigational mistakes and other adventures, what in a certain moment gave us 8th place overall.” 
“Of course, I will regret for a long time those last range of dunes and finish in Lima, which we didn’t cross”, he added. “But I’m sure that all the time of preparations, and the rally itself as well, have developed me as a driver, moreover, I lived an adventure, which I’ll remember for life.”

The young rally driver, who already has the World Cup victory in T3 and 3rd place in T1 under his belt, admitted that Dakar Rally occurred the toughest sporting challenge he had to face: 

“Tremendously difficult routes awaited us. Trial sections, soft dunes, narrow mountain tracks and stones hidden in fesh-fesh are only a part of surprises, which we met. One of the greatest challenges was… the time of driving on each stage. Almost 1000km long stages made us barely leave the car during the day. But the toughest thing for me was unpredictability of the route. The fact that organizers were giving us so little information about it before the start, forced us not to lose vigilance on the stage not even for a while,”

Domżała noticed.
For Aron Domżała and Maciej Marton participation in Dakar was the culmination of long-lasting preparations, but also the next step in their rally career.  

“For the past one year, waking up in the morning and going to sleep in the evening, I was thinking about how to prepare the best for Dakar. There wasn’t a single day when we weren’t discussing it with Maciej. Barely happened a day without physical training, and actually all our starts in the last season were targeted at preparations for This Start. Now it’s time to take a deep breath and plan next challenges. These will be sporting and non-sporting as well, but not less ambitious,”

he ended.  

Press release
Translation: Anna Michalska, Rita Kónya

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