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Saudi Arabia seals Dakar Rally deal

Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) has today (Monday) confirmed that the Dakar Rally will be held in Saudi Arabia from 2020.

Terms of the deal for the motorsport showpiece were not disclosed, but it was reported earlier this month that Saudi Arabia’s General Sports Authority had reached a five-year contract.

The Rally has been staged in South America since 2009 after the 2008 edition – which was scheduled to start in the Portuguese capital, Lisbon and conclude in Senegal – was cancelled due to terrorism concerns.

The 2019 Dakar Rally was held in one country for the first time in its history from January 6-17 after it was confirmed that Peru would be the sole destination following a troubled process to secure host nations.

The Saudi deal marks another new frontier for the Rally, and another significant move by the Middle Eastern nation in the motorsport market. The country hosted the first Formula E race in the Middle East on December 15, under a 10-year hosting deal agreed by Saudi Arabia’s General Sports Authority and the Saudi Arabian Motor Federation as part of Vision 2030, an initiative that seeks to diversify Saudi Arabia’s interests away from the oil sector.

On February 2-3 last year, Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia, became the first city in the Middle East to stage the Race of Champions (ROC) after securing hosting rights for the 2018 event. The two-day event took place at the 75,000-seat King Fahd International Stadium.

Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al Faisal Al Saud, chairman of the General Sports Authority, said: “Our country is extremely passionate about sport and our strategic goal is to feed that appetite as we move further towards achieving Vision 2030, of which sport is a basic pillar.

“In hosting Dakar Rally we aim to produce an unbelievable and unforgettable experience for drivers as they discover the beauty of Saudi nature and a unique spectacle for motorsport fans not only in Saudi Arabia but also in the region and around the world.”

David Castera, director of the Dakar Rally, added: “As the director of the event, it’s a massive challenge to be faced with a blank page with limitless possibilities.

“I’m already inspired and delighted to have to design a course in such a monumental geography, made for the most audacious itineraries. We are spoilt for choice. Sports, navigation, a will to surpass oneself: all these aspects will naturally be glorified on this territory made for rally-raids.”