2021 Dakar Rally Returns to Saudi Arabia

Press Release | June 8, 2020

Iconic race returns from January 3-15 with tough Jeddah and Ha’il stages.

Luciano Benavides on his KTM of the Red Bull KTM Factory Team rides in the Empty Quarter during stage 11 of the Dakar Rally, between Shubaytah and Harad, Saudi Arabia, on January 16, 2020. Photo Courtesy of Eric Vargiolu / DPPI / Red Bull Content Pool
Luciano Benavides on his KTM of the Red Bull KTM Factory Team rides in the Empty Quarter during stage 11 of the Dakar Rally, between Shubaytah and Harad, Saudi Arabia, on January 16, 2020. Photo Courtesy of Eric Vargiolu / DPPI / Red Bull Content Pool

This is a press release from Red Bull Media and Dakar…

The planet’s toughest test of motorsports endurance returns to Saudi Arabia in the New Year as a brand-new Dakar Rally route will push committed petrolheads to the limit over diverse landscapes. Here is all you need to know:

  • After four decades of desert action in Africa and South America, a stunning debut in the Arabian Peninsula earlier this year saw the Dakar capture the imagination of adventurous rally fans the world over once again. In January 2021, the world’s toughest rally is heading back to Saudi Arabia for another fortnight of exhilarating offroad action.
  • The Dakar convoy will start their 2021 odyssey on the shores of the Red Sea as they depart Jeddah on January 3. Competitors will spend the following two weeks navigating their way through Saudi Arabia’s expansive deserts. A well earned Rest Day will come in the ancient city of Ha’il at the midway point on January 9.
  • A hero’s reception awaits those who manage to meet every challenge and cross the finish line back in Jeddah on January 15. The winners of each category (Car, Bike, Truck, Quad and UTV) will be celebrated on the podium, but everyone who completes the Dakar has the right to be satisfied at overcoming the toughest test of endurance.
  • As well as a new route for 2021, further innovations will be added to the mix to increase the sporting challenges of the event while always prioritising participant safety. Handing out the roadbook of a stage just 10 minutes before racing starts will bring navigation skills to the fore. Also among the new regulations are strict rules governing tires. No tire changes will be allowed in the car category during the marathon stage while each motorbike will be granted a total of six rear tires for the entire rally.
  • To ensure competitors remain as safe as possible there will be audible warnings ahead of danger zones. Furthermore, certain hazardous sections will be categorized as “slow zones” where the speed limit will be set at 90kph. Airbag vests will now be mandatory and subject to inspection by race officials during technical scrutineering.
  • Dakar Rally director David Castera said: “[During the 2020 Dakar] stage after stage, and often multiple times within the same stage, the majestic landscapes of the region left us dazzled and in awe. However, Saudi Arabia only revealed a tiny part of its mysteries, leaving plenty of surprises in store for the next edition in January 2021.”
  • Also new in 2021 will be Dakar Classic, a parallel contest for vintage vehicles that will use the same start and finish points. In a nod to the unique heritage of the rally, memorable machines from the past such as the Renault 20, Lada Niva, Toyota Celica, Land Rover Defender and Porsche 959 are expected on the start line of the inaugural race.
Laia Sanz (ESP) races during stage 9 of Rally Dakar 2020 from Wadi Al Dawasir to Haradh, Saudi Arabia on January 14, 2020. Photo Courtesy of Marcelo Maragni/Red Bull Content Pool
Laia Sanz (ESP) races during stage 9 of Rally Dakar 2020 from Wadi Al Dawasir to Haradh, Saudi Arabia on January 14, 2020. Photo Courtesy of Marcelo Maragni/Red Bull Content Pool

Jeddah

The economic heart of the country was the scene of the arrival of the Dakar in Saudi Arabia in 2020. The ships and planes transporting the vehicles, competitors, and support teams will follow the same path in 2021. However, this time round, Medina will also close the loop and host the finish of the rally.

Ha’il

For centuries, Ha’il was a stop on a trade route between the Red Sea and Mesopotamia. The region is also famous for its numerous rock faces covered with rock art, which stand as reminders of the presence of human populations going almost 10,000 years back. However, true connoisseurs also know the region as the cradle of rally raids in Saudi Arabia. The core of Saudi riders and drivers formed around Ha’il, whose annual rally is the major event of the rally-raid community.

2021 Dakar Route
2021 Dakar Route

More information about 2021 Dakar…

Skill over speed

The sporting teams in charge of preparing the 2021 edition of the rally have focused on fleshing out the new navigation system introduced last January and slowing down the vehicles to make the race even safer.

Road book to be handed out just 10 minutes before the start

Mediocre competitors can memorize a road book from A to Z, but real navigators know how to read and interpret it on the fly. The cream of the crop shone in the stages of the 2020 edition in which road books were handed out right before the start. In 2021, this will become the general rule.

The road book will also experience a quantum leap in usability with the introduction of a digital version, which is more reliable than the paper one, in certain categories.

Aural warnings and slow zones

The road book already highlights danger zones, but from now on competitors will also receive aural warnings in the approach to difficulty 2 and 3 zones to keep them alert. Furthermore, certain especially tricky and hazardous sectors will be categorized as “slow zones” where the speed limit is 90 km/h.

Spare (the) tires

In rally raids, tire management usually plays a decisive role and determines just how hard the competitors can push their vehicles. No tire changes will be allowed in the car category during the marathon stage —not even between competitors. Each motorbike will be granted a total of six rear tires for the entire rally.

Airbag vests now mandatory

Airbag vests, which are already in use in several road categories and in MotoGP, can reduce the severity of injury in a serious crash. They will now be mandatory and subject to inspection by race officials during technical scrutineering.

Penalties for piston changes and ban on work at refuelling stations for motorbikes

Penalties for engine changes were introduced a few years ago to encourage bikers to ride carefully. From next year, time penalties will be applied starting from the second piston change even if the rest of the engine remains the same. Finally, bikers will no longer be allowed to work on their motorbikes at refueling stations.

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