A few days are all that separates the world of motorsport from the launch of the world’s most challenging race when Dakar Rally Saudi Arabia 2020 begins in Jeddah on 5 January.
Since it’s inception in 1978, the Dakar, originally known as Paris -Dakar Rally, has stood alone for its extremely difficult natural terrain venues and for the unique machines that are specially built to conquer these super tough conditions as fast as possible. Five classes of vehicles will compete with the participants trying to win top honors in each class were all of the vehicles in that class are basically the same, these are the separate classes for motorcycles, quads, cars, trucks and UTV’s.
The first-ever event, starting in Paris, had 182 vehicles, both motorcycles, and cars, with only 74 survivors finishing in the 10,000KM journey to the Senegalese capital of Dakar.
Such was the interest and attention that the new event received that the number of entries quickly grew as well as manufacturer interest and also the participation of well known international drivers like Jacky Ickx and Henri Pescarolo.
There were 382 starters in 1982, already up more than double the number of the first event!
For various reasons, the event has taken place in various countries and even in various continents! However, the extremely grueling nature of it remains constant.
Most recently, since 2009, the Dakar has been contested in South America, and once again in 2020, the venue changes to take place on the Arabian peninsula in Saudi Arabia.
The record number for entries for the Dakar was the amazing number of 688 in 2005!
Dakar competitors quotes:
Toby Price: “We had to deal with a lot of animals. It wasn’t a tricky day of navigation but it becomes a difficult day when cows pop up all over the place.”
Sam Sunderland: “I could definitely feel the altitude having an effect when we reached 5,000 meters (above sea level). It’s something that adds to the difficulty but it’s the same for everybody, we’re all in the same boat.”
Eduard Nikolaev: “I am overflowing with emotions and I even teared up a bit when we crossed the line.”
The event will witness the first F1 champion to compete in the Dakar Rally which starts on Sunday in Saudi Arabia. Fernando Alonso is more than excited about the toughest challenge in motorsport.
"The biggest challenge of my career," the 38-year-old Alonso said, referring to the world's most grueling race.
Belgium's Jacky Ickx became the first former F1 driver to win the Dakar Rally, finishing first in 1983 and second in 1986 and 1989.
Dakar also will witness the first appearance of (a fully-electric rally-raid car). Dakar has given an opportunity to the brand new Extrem E, the electric off-road series as the ODYSSEY 21 car will make its first full appearance in the last stage of Dakar Rally to help serve as an extended test session to assist the car’s development, in preparation for XE’s own Saudi desert round.
“The Saudi stages will provide a real test,” said XE CEO Alejandro Agag,
“It will be a unique opportunity for the guys at Spark to gather data and learn about our E-SUV, driven hard and in its ‘natural environment’ with a little over a year until we get underway,” he added.
“We are delighted that the Extreme E E-SUV will be accompanying us throughout the forthcoming Dakar,” David Castera said, Dakar Rally director.