The rally's fifth edition in Saudi Arabia will be held from 5 to 19 January 2024, starting in the thousand-year-old city of AlUla, crossing the country in the direction of the Empty Quarter and finishing in Yanbu on the shores of the Red Sea.
"The challenge will be just as daunting as last January", warns race director David Castera, who promises the competitors massive stretches of dunes where navigation difficulties will accompany the technical challenges of crossing them.
A new stage format has also been created: on the "48-hour stage", there will be a time limit for stopping (4 pm) before setting off again the next day (7 am) to complete the route.
As part of the Dakar Future programme, the Mission 1000 operation offers constructors an opportunity to test vehicles with innovative technologies on Dakar terrain: over a hundred kilometres per day, with their performance evaluated in a giant laboratory.
ALULA CAMP: RENDEZ-VOUS WITH HISTORY
The Dakar competitors discovered the wonders of AlUla in the first edition of the rally in Saudi Arabia in 2020. However, this time around, they will have the opportunity to immerse themselves even further in the atmosphere of the thousand-year-old archaeological sites: the principle of the start camp, which was a tremendous success among the competitors in its coastal version, has now been extended to the desert, with the bivouac located in the vicinity of the majestic temples built by the Nabataeans. Drawing inspiration from buildings that have stood the test of time, this is the perfect way to get into adventure and discovery mode before tackling the thousands of kilometres of the route.
1 PROLOGUE, 12 STAGES, 14 DAYS OF RACING
Following a demanding edition that revealed the competitors' capacity for resistance, the tone of the Dakar 2024 will be just as respectful of their expectations in terms of a challenge. The route, which will cover an equivalent distance of 5, 000 kilometres, of special stages continues the exploration of Saudi territory, with 60% of all-new sections. A total of nine bivouacs will be set up on a large swathe running west-east, crisscrossing the route in both directions to a final finish in Yanbu, on the shores of the Red Sea.
48-HOUR STAGE: ENGINES CUT AT THE CANNON BLAST
This is a new stage format, contested over two days with the constraints of a marathon stage, although competitors are permitted to help each other during the evening. But this time, there will be no choice of canteen or repair companions, as the drivers and crews will be spread out over eight different bivouacs. When the clocks strike 4 pm, all vehicles will be required to stop at the next bivouac they come across. With no connection and therefore no visibility of their rivals' performances, the competitors will camp and set off again at 7 am the following day to complete the remaining section of the route. The tally will be counted after around 600 kilometres of special stage.
EMPTY QUARTER: TWO SPECIAL DAYS
The immense desert of the Empty Quarter will be the venue for the all-new 48-hour stage, with a special format that surpasses the time limit imposed on the first sequence. The terrain lends itself particularly well to two separate courses, one for motorbikes and quads and the other for cars and trucks. Therefore, the top FIA teams will not benefit from the tracks left by the two-wheelers and will have to navigate based on their talent. The system of 'bonuses' awarded to motorbike stage openers introduced in the previous edition will be, exceptionally, employed.