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ADV News2020 Dakar Rally Routes and Rule Changes Revealed

2020 Dakar Rally Routes and Rule Changes Revealed

Changes in format for Middle East Dakar to help balance out the competition.

Published on 11.27.2019

The final route of the 2020 Dakar Rally, which will start in Jeddah and conclude 12 stages later near the Saudi capital of Riyadh, has been announced. This is the first time that the Dakar will start in the Middle East with Saudi Arabia having signed a five-year deal to host the grueling race. The change in continent will also come with rule changes in an effort to even the playing field among professional and amateur racers alike.

New color-coded roadbooks will be handed out just minutes prior to the start of the timed sector on several stages to help rebalance the competition in favor of the amateur entries. Previously, when roadmaps were handed out early, larger teams were able to gain a significant advantage with multiple individuals processing the details.

Another change includes the introduction of a “Super Marathon” stage for motorcycles (top pilots only) where only 10 minutes of work on the machines will be allowed, making vehicle management crucial, as well as the more traditional marathon stage (imposed on all vehicles) that will conclude the day before the finish.


Organizers will also be giving a “second chance” to racers (except top pilots). In order to allow the less experienced to continue their learning process, a “joker” will be granted to competitors forced to retire. They will be permitted to re-join the rally in a separate ranking called the “Dakar Experience”. Racers can only use one joker on the entire rally and any withdrawal after the activation of the Joker will be final. A Dakar Experience competitor will be in the classification of the stage, but will not be in the overall classification.

2020 Dakar Rally joker pass
A ‘joker’ pass will be granted to less experienced racers forced to retire, allowing them to re-join the rally under the ‘Dakar Experience’ category.

With an overall distance close to 7,900km, the competitors will battle over 5,000km of special stages. In addition to discovering the Saudi Arabian dunes, which will be featured in the second-half of the rally, the first-half of the Dakar will take racers through a labyrinth of tracks where navigation skills will be essential. The new roadbooks and the new marathon stages introduced will help reduce the gaps between the big teams and amateurs. 

Jeddah, the second largest city in the country, will be the starting point of the Dakar. The first third of the rally will test the navigation skills of the riders and teams with direction choices made more complicated by the multitude of tracks. Near the Red Sea or the Jordanian border for the stages around Neom then towards Al Ula, it will be the skilled navigators who will lead the way. 

2020 Dakar Rally routes
The 2020 Dakar will start in Jeddah and finish in Qiddiyah. Racers will be facing a total of 7,856 km, including over 5,000 km of specials, five of them longer than 450 km.

With more and more sand, the course will pose major challenges in the dunes between Ha’il and the capital Riyadh, where there will be a rest day. The rally will continue and intensify with the discovery and exploration of the vast “Empty Quarter” a deserted portion of the Saudi territory where the all-important Shubaytah and Haradh stages will be contested. But the general classification will not necessarily be set in stone heading into the final Qiddiyah stage, where navigation could catch out even the best.

More Racers for 2020

In spite of the controversial move to Saudi Arabia, there has been an increase in racers participating in the upcoming Dakar. Specifically, there is a 5% bump from last year’s race in Peru, with 351 vehicles expected in Saudi Arabia.

Among the 557 competitors entered, 53 nationalities are represented, with a leading trio dominated by the French delegation (258), followed by Spain (77) and the Netherlands (53).  In addition, 13 women are entered for the 2020 Dakar, including the female tandem of Camelia Liparoti and Annett Fischer.  

2020 Dakar in Saudi Arabia will see more riders

2017 Dakar winner, Sam Sunderland added: “This change is good for me, because I’ve lived in Dubai for 10 years, adapting well to the Middle East. It’s positive for the Dakar to discover a new territory. One thing is for sure, though: everybody in this sport is excited to discover a new land, a new race, a new format.”

The 42nd edition of the Dakar will run from January 5th to January 17th and see 170 bikes including last year’s champ Toby Price and US factory favorites Andrew Short and Ricky Brabec.

For more information go to

Author: ADV Pulse Staff

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November 29, 2019 9:55 pm

There must be some unpublished political descission behind the move. South America had everything the Rally required with all its veriable landscapes. And dont forget the enthusiasitc audience! Maybe one should look closely if there are any new main sponsors, like some saudi prince with too much money? And we havent talked yet about the opressive dictatorship of the location…

December 6, 2019 7:25 am
Reply to  Kai

All boils down to oil money.

Hopefully it should be a good rally though, I really like the new regulations.


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