Dakar 2020: 342 vehicles leave Yedda to discover the Arabian desert | sports

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In the opening Yedda, the second city of Saudi Arabia, with three and a half million inhabitants, where the avenues are long and the traffic dense, where the buildings try to mimic the earth by day, then color the night with lights neon, the roar of the most daring engines breaks with the monotony of the Saudis. Once all the technical verifications have been completed, the palm tree is displayed on the starting podium next to the Corniche that overlooks the Red Sea, 342 vehicles – a figure slightly higher than last year, 337 – will take the Dakar 2020 exit this Sunday, some when the sun hasn't even risen yet. Like the Spanish Joan Pedrero, who will have the honor of opening a track with his KTM and the number 25 at 4.15 in the morning.

Pedrero (and another 144 motorcycles, 23 quads, 83 cars, 46 side by side and 46 trucks) will head towards Al Wajh to cover a first stage that the organization presents as a mini-Dakar. The timed special, of 319 km, borders the Red Sea and has a bit of everything: a bit of fast track, a part of winding terrain, stony areas and the first contact, scarce, of course, with the fine Saudi sand.

The variety, says the Director of the Dakar, David Castera, will define this first edition in the Arab country, although the route (7,856 kilometers, 5,097 timed) will have the arena as the protagonist, since it will cover 75% of the total. Not surprisingly, the Arabian desert, with more than two million square kilometers in length, occupies almost the entire peninsula. Variety (and beauty, adds Castera) although it is only the second time in history that the Rally is celebrated entirely in the same country, as the previous year occurred in Peru.


The first edition in the history of the Dakar in the Asian continent will travel 7,856 kilometers for Saudi Arabia.
Of the 7,856 kilometers that the Dakar will travel in 2020, 5,097 are timed. The rest is the path that links the special stages.

The more than 5,000 kilometers of special category will run 41% on sand and 18% on desert dunes.

Source: Dakar 2020 and own elaboration.

The first edition in the history of the Dakar in the Asian continent will travel 7,856 kilometers for Saudi Arabia.
Of the 7,856 kilometers that the Dakar will travel in 2020, 5,097 are timed. The rest is the path that links the special stages.

The more than 5,000 kilometers of special category will run 41% on sand and 18% on desert dunes.

Source: Dakar 2020 and own elaboration.

The first edition in the history of the Dakar in the Asian continent will travel 7,856 kilometers for Saudi Arabia.
Of the 7,856 kilometers that the Dakar will travel in 2020, 5,097 are timed. The rest is the path that links the special stages.

The more than 5,000 kilometers of special category will run 41% on sand and 18% on desert dunes.

Source: Dakar 2020 and own elaboration.

In this 42nd edition, we must be very attentive to the tracks; Good navigation will have a prize. This was warned in one of the first talks with competitors, David Castera, new director of the Dakar replacing Etienne Lavigne. “We are not trying to deceive you or cheat you, but in Saudi Arabia there are thousands of roads and crossings. So you have to ask the right questions and choose well. ” The competition will be distributed in twelve stages, two of them marathon stages (in which the intervention of the assists is not allowed); then he will rest in Riyadh, the capital of the kingdom, and culminate in Qiddiya, where Fernando Alonso, the great attraction of this edition, hopes to reach.

The two-time Formula 1 world champion finishes off the magnificent poster of Toyota, one of the most powerful teams of this edition, as it has in its ranks the 2019 winner, Nasser Al Attiyah, for many the great favorite, De Villiers or Ten Brinke. They will be seen with Carlos Sainz (X-Raid), Stéphane Peterhansel (X-Raid) or Nani Roma (Borgward), second in the last edition. In motorcycles the fan is wide and the domain of the test is not in the hands of anyone, except after the change of scenery. Toby Price, winner in 2016 and last year, is the one who has the best gallons. He will fight with his fellow KTM Mathias Walkner or Sam Sunderland, with Van Beveren (Yamaha), Quintanilla (Husqvarna), Kevin Benavides (Honda) or Joan Barreda (Honda), the eternal aspirant.


Dakar participants

Since its first edition in 1979 at the Dakar, 15,800 participants have taken the exit. Of them, just 41% (about 6,500) They managed to finish some edition.

% of participants who finished the rally

In 2003 alone 17% of the participants finished

Participants taking the exit

in each edition

The 2005 edition was the one that featured more runners

Source: Dakar 2020 and own elaboration.

Dakar participants

Since its first edition in 1979 at the Dakar, 15,800 participants have taken the exit. Of them, just 41% (about 6,500) They managed to finish some edition.

% of participants who finished the rally

In 2003 alone 17% of the participants finished

Participants taking the exit in each edition

The 2005 edition was the one that featured more runners

Source: Dakar 2020 and own elaboration.

Dakar participants

Since its first edition in 1979 at the Dakar, 15,800 participants have taken the exit. Of them, just 41% (about 6,500) They managed to finish some edition.

% of participants who finished the rally

In 2003 alone 17% of the participants finished

Participants taking the exit in each edition

The 2005 edition was the one that featured more runners

Source: Dakar 2020 and own elaboration.

342 vehicles leave Yedda to discover the Arabian desert



And in a country where women begin to discreetly peek into public life, especially since in September the use of the abaya ceased to be mandatory, there will be no better reference than Laia Sanz, with number 14 and an unpolished history. To her the female category – which she has won nine times, all in which she has participated – falls short.

With Sanz and many other women breaking molds in a country that aspires to open to the west slowly, Saudi Arabia takes over this 2020 and begins a new stage of that mythical career that had to stop calling itself Paris-Dakar more than ten years ago.

From Africa to Saudi Arabia

The Dakar Rally, which ran for the first time in the late 70s and soon acquired that romantic leave of those who dreamed of reaching Lake Rosa, left Africa after having to suspend the 2008 edition due to the threat of al Qaeda. He moved to South America a year later. And now, after discovering countries like Argentina, Chile, Peru or Bolivia, try to settle curiously in the country that saw the birth of Bin Laden, founder of the terrorist organization.

Security, however, does not seem to be a topic for debate this year, even after the incident facing Iran and the United States these days following the assassination of General Qasem Soleimani in Baghdad. The route that the Dakar draws looks out to the Red Sea and deepens in the heart of the country thanks to a triangle that includes Wadi Al Dawasir, Riyadh, Qiddiya and Harad, but is far from the border with Iran, penetrates only the Empty Room – To the southeast of the country, an area almost uninhabited except for a handful of villas – and also avoids the Eastern Province, a border area with Yemen.

Despite the apparent difficulties, the director of the race, David Castera, says that this has been one of the easiest editions to design. He has four more years left on his contract to perfect it.

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