Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) have released initial details of the Dakar Rally route for 2022, which goes through some familiar towns and cities in Saudi Arabia, but is claimed to be 80 per cent different from this year’s route.
The 2021 Dakar started on the Red Sea coast at Jeddah, then ventured inland, taking in Riyadh, Ha’il and Sakaka before running back down the Red Sea coast to Jeddah, avoiding the Eastern Provinces and that area’s ‘Empty Quarter’ entirely.
For its third running in Saudi Arabia, next year’s route will spend almost the entire first week in the Eastern Province. That means lots and lots of sand, with a byproduct being that navigation will be more important than ever before.
From the Empty Quarter, the route heads to the Riyadh, the Saudi capital, for the rest day, then south and west before finishing at Jeddah.
Returning to the Empty Quarter holds particular appeal for two-time Dakar winner, Joan ‘Nani’ Roma: “I’d love to delve deeper into the Empty Quarter; it’s a terrain that works really well with drivers like me. More sand, more dunes, more off-road driving, more proper cross-country rallying...I’m excited!”
This year’s cars category winner and 14-time Dakar Champion, Stéphane Peterhansel, was a little more reserved: “If it’s sand we are looking for, we’re in luck, and it will be a nice route because it will be a good test of our ability to get through the sand challenges as well as off-road navigation.”
Full day-by-day details of the 2022 route have yet to be released, but it will comprise two loop stages and two marathon stages (where competitors must service and repair their own vehicles each evening), which ASO says will be run “the old-fashioned way”.
The 2022 Dakar will commence on 2 January in Ha’il, with the rest day on 8 January in Riyadh and conclusion on 14 January in Jeddah.