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The Dakar will take place in Saudi Arabia in 2020

The most famous rally leaves South America, where it has been running since 2009.

The World with AFP Posted today at 15h28, updated at 16h08

Time to Reading 2 min.

French driver Sébastien Loeb and Monaco co-driver Daniel Elena train in San Bartolo, 75 km south of Lima, Peru, on 4 January 2019.
French rider Sébastien Loeb and Monaco co-driver Daniel Elena train in San Bartolo, 75 km south of Lima, Peru, on 4 January 2019. FRANCK FIFE / AFP

The Dakar, the most famous rally-raid, leaves South America, where it ran since 2009, and will take place in Saudi Arabia in 2020, announced the organizer, Amaury Sport Organization (ASO), in a statement Monday, April 15th.

"After thirty years traveling and discovering Africa and ten years marveling at South American landscapes, the world's biggest rally will write a new chapter in the mysterious and deep deserts of the Middle East, in Saudi Arabia", he added in this release. Monday's official agreement runs for a period of five years.

Read our column: Automobile: Dakar, the dead rally-raid

Austerity policies

Created in 1978, the event, then called Paris-Dakar, was until 2007 run between Europe and North Africa, before moving to South America to guard against the terrorist threat. Between 2009 and 2018, she made stops in Argentina, Chile, Peru, Bolivia and, briefly, Paraguay.

Organizing it in this region, however, became more and more complicated due to austerity policies and weather constraints.

The 2019 edition was thus the first to take place in only one country, Peru, after the withdrawals of Bolivia and Chile, on a ten-stage loop, against fourteen for the previous one, which visited three countries (Argentina, Bolivia, Peru).

«I am already inspired and happy to have to trace a course in a geography so monumental and conducive to the most daring routes»says the new director of the event, Frenchman David Castera. "There is only the embarrassment of choice. Sport, navigation, surpassing oneself will obviously be magnified in these territories made for the rally-raid ", promises the one who participated in the event on motorcycle then as co-driver in the car and was sports director of the Dakar between 2006 and 2015.

Find the portrait: David Castera, the love of the Dakar

Sports diplomacy

"Our country is passionate about sport, and our strategic goal is to feed that appetite as we move toward the realization of our Vision 2030, of which sport is one of the pillars", commented the president of the General Authority of Sports – the body responsible for sports in Saudi Arabia – Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al Saud.

Host of the Italian Supercup of football, of a race of Electric Formula and now of the Dakar, the kingdom relies for a few years on the sport like tool of communication, with the aim of improving its image. A press conference will give more details about the event, Thursday, April 25 in Al-Qiqqiya, near the Saudi capital, Ryad.

Read also Diplomacy through Saudi Arabia's sport tested against Jamal Khashoggi's murder
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