After receiving the start of 2006 and 2007 Dakar Rally editions , the infamous Dakar 2008 (canceled just a few hours before the start) and the Pax Rally (the first ever Dakar Series event) , the official Dakar brand never again returned to the Iberian country. That is, up until now. Last week Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) organized one event in Portugal, with the presence of Charles Cuypers and Thierry Viardot, both members of Dakar rally's organization.
Portugal has a strong presence in the motorbike category at the Dakar with several top riders in the top teams including an extremely gifted younger generation that is now making their first races outside Portugal and Dakar presences. But if there is a competition where Portugal rises above any other country is in the SSV category. Not only Portugal has the strongest SSV championship in Europe and maybe in the world ( Just keep in mind the 100 plus starters at Baja Portalegre), but also many SSV's that are actually racing in both FIA's World Cups are built or prepared in this country.
ASO saw the amazing evolution and ever growing relevance of Portugal among the SSVs (considered by many the future of Rally-Raid) and wisely decided to take a closer look on what was going on. And this is how the "Dakar Challenge" came to Portugal, starting already in 2019 but also continuing for 2020. The first part will be "Road to Merzouga",and this new promotional challenge will give the chance to one moto rider and one SSV driver to have a free entry on Merzouga Rally. Two races will be valid for this competition - Baja TT Idanha-a-Nova and Baja Portalegre and the winner in each category will be the one that scores more points on these two races.
As for the Dakar Challenge, it will start only in 2020, including all championship races made until June. In this case, the competition will be valid only for SSV and the prize will be a free entry on 2021 Dakar Rally, but this will be valid only for Dakar Rookies and drivers that aren't on FIA's prioritary lists.