Saudi Arabia? Angola? Algeria? Staying in South America? Moving somewhere else?... How many options (and problems) more for the world's biggest motorsport event?
If you are following us for some time it's very likely that you remember the "telenovela" posts we published last year in this blog about the 2019 Dakar Rally, and the uncertainty with constant evolutions forward and backwards with the eventual route. The "path" to Dakar 2019 was quite complicated: first was Argentina, then Chile and finally Bolivia that pulled out before leaving Peru alone in the role of the host country. Colombia and Equador also showed up in this real South American telenovela, given as strong possibilites to host the rally. But prior to the final revelation, at some point in time, even the return to Africa was a strong possibility with several routes in study, or at least being mentioned.
For this year and the next Dakar Rally edition, the situation isn't different, there are many rumours, comments, news, social media posts about the new edition, but this time most of these "news" point to just one new destination: the Middle East, with a route drawn in Saudi Arabia, that could also be joined by Jordan and Egypt in 2020 or in future editions, since the rumour that is circulating says that the Dakar Rally stays in the region for 5 years.
But our readers must keep in mind some older news. The most recent "developments" completely obliterated a previous news about the Angolan Federation who is discussing the prospect of hosting the Dakar Rally. While the "Arabian version" is based on social media posts, the source of the "Angolan version" is an official document from the local Federation, inviting its members for a meeting where hosting the 2020 Dakar rally was a point in the discussion.
These two 2020 hosting candidates (Angola on one side and Saudi Arabia on the other) made everybody forget that South America could probably still have something to offer. Let's not forget that the fan base there is huge, the passion for the sport is incomparable and that many options could still be open. On the other hand, South American crews are giving an increasing proportion of the entries of the Dakar Rally. The countries of this region already know the pros and cons of hosting or not hosting the rally, and for sure many people are working hard to keep the rally there.
Another option no so often in the news and most of the time under the radar is Algeria. Remember that last year this country was on the "unofficial" list of candidates to host the rally, and it is still probably there. Algeria is vast, stretching from the Mediterranean into deep into the Sahara Desert, was already visited in the past, and could offer an amazing scenery for the "world's hardest rally".
What seems to be completely out of the options list is the return to the old path, with Morocco, Mauretania and Senegal, since there is already a race on that route in the same time.
ASO, like in all the other years keeps being silent. The waves of "news" come and go, but the French organizers keep all in secret until the official announcement day. For sure we can speculate, and where is smoke, there surely must be fire, but until the owners of the race speak out, we can't really be 100% sure.
All options offer challenges, for example South America's main problem is the lack of will of the local governments to pay the sums ASO asks, in Saudi Arabia money is no problem at all, but the clash of cultures could pose some issues, in Angola budget could also be a problem and route with little sand areas even if crossing Namibia in a loop that includes South Africa could not please to all participants. Finally Algeria, which is not really in the rumours this year and probably is even out of the options, is undergoing an electoral process and is not the most stable and secure, even if the local authorities are trying hard to keep everything under control.
For us as fans the most important is that the 2020 Dakar Rally could be once again a great race, full of challenges, drama, small and big vitories. For some the race is a life's dream, for others a career objective, and for other is like an annual pergrination. But for all it is surely one of the most, if not the most amazing race in the world and one of the few real challenges modern days offer, in an era dominated by techonlogy and gadgets.
Let's hope that ASO finds a great solution, no matter where it is, and that in January 2020 all the emotions return.