Dakar Rally 2023 - The Route

Posted on December 04, 2023

The fifth edition of the Dakar in Saudi Arabia promises to push man and machine harder than any of the previous ones. After the first week, in which the competitors will feel the heat from the start in AlUla, the field will tackle an Empty Quarter triptych introducing a brand-new concept: a 48 h chrono stage held over two days in which the competitors, scattered among eight bivouacs, will be basically left to their own devices. The rest day in Riyadh will only provide a brief respite, as the varied terrain between that point and the finish in Yanbu is riddled with navigational challenges that could shift the balance of power at any time.

Few things left the field of the Dakar as awestruck as AlUla and its region when the race first landed in Saudi Arabia in January 2020. The kaleidoscopic landscapes of the great outdoors blend with the weight of history and an element of mystery in a humbling experience and an invitation to contemplation. The Dakar has returned time and again to AlUla following its first encounter with archaeological sites from the dawn of time and the Nabataean temples sprinkled around the old town. In a repeat of the tried-and-tested formula used on the shores of the Red Sea last time, the riders, drivers, co-drivers, support crews and organisation teams will converge on a super-sized bivouac to apply the finishing touches to their preparations before the rally gets under way. Camaraderie and a shared passion for the beauty of the desert will fill the air.

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.

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.

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.

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.