The Dakar continues its nomadic journey. Africa, with several European countries as initial stepping stones, followed by South America, criss-crossing from the Atlantic to the Pacific, hosted the rally by offering drivers and crews their most breathtaking landscapes. In 2020, the Dakar will flourish on another continent and in a 30th country, Saudi Arabia.
The pioneers... in Africa
In the 1970s, Africa was still a distant and unknown continent in the eyes of Europeans. Thierry Sabine’s dream became a reality for a few lucky pioneers: a total of 74 vehicles joined the first rally and discovered the wonders of the Sahara. The Dakar draws entertainment stars and the best drivers in the world. A symbol of this winning combo, the duo of six-time winner of the 24 Hours of Le Mans Jacky Ickx and actor Claude Brasseur won the 4th edition of the rally. The event quickly became a benchmark in the world of motor sports and its masters emerged: Hubert Auriol, Stéphane Peterhansel, Fabrizio Meoni, Cyril Despres, Marc Coma, and a female champion, Jutta Kleinschmidt.
The Dakar gets a Latin twist
The cancellation of the 2008 rally due to terrorist threats meant a radical change was in order... and a fantastic journey: the Dakar crossed the Atlantic. Argentine and Chilean aficionados helped bring the race—which was already gaining an increasingly international following—to the masses. With the Andes, drivers now had altitude to contend with, but the essence of the rally raid remained: the dunes, the Atacama Desert, Fiambala, followed by the Ica Desert in Peru. During the 11th edition of the South American rally in 2019, more than a third of Dakar drivers and co-drivers competed on their home continent.
The call of the Orient
The story continues for the Dakar, to be hosted by the largest country on the Arabian Peninsula. Saudi Arabia is colossal, four times the size of France, a place where all types of desert terrains coexist. In the dunes, but also travelling across more mountainous regions and sometimes on tracks, drivers will recognise familiar terrain... in entirely new surroundings.