Qatar's Nasser Al-Attiyah (Toyota Gazoo Racing), during last year's Dakar.
The dunes were already protagonists in the last Dakar rally and will be again, more than ever, in the 2024 edition. ASO, the French organiser of the event, presented the event this afternoon through a virtual ceremony. Saudi Arabia hosts for the fifth consecutive year the toughest rally on the planet, which seeks to recover part of the essence lost with its abandonment of Africa 15 years ago. "A good Dakar is a tough Dakar', we were told, and from the organization we have gotten the message," explains David Castera, director of the event. As they did last year, it was the participants who asked for greater complexity and new challenges in the journey through Saudi Arabia.
In total, in 2024 there will be 7,891 kilometres of route, of which 4,727 will be timed. Despite the fact that the Middle Eastern country is no longer a novelty for drivers, 60% of the stages will be unprecedented in the event. The ruins of the historic city of Al Ula will kick off the rally on January 5, and the shores of the Red Sea in Yanbu will be closed on January 19 after 13 stages and a prologue, which will not count towards the general classification. The rally manager believes that there have never been so many dunes on the menu of a competition that dates back to 1978 and has since visited 30 countries on four different continents.
👇 The official route of Dakar 2024!
🚩 AlUla - Yanbu 🏁
📏 7,891 km (4,727 km of SS) ➡️
#Dakar2024 #DakarInSaudi pic.twitter.com/HKXnFp6Dt2
— DAKAR RALLY (@dakar) November 20, 2023
Once again, the desert of Rub al Khali, the feared empty quadrant in the southeast of the country, will be the main protagonist of the race with a 48-hour marathon stage that will close the first week of competition. "This format adds a little salt and pepper to the race. It will be one of the stellar stages," said Carlos Sainz, who is looking for his fourth Touareg. This novelty, called Chrono 48h, will force participants to stop in their tracks at dusk and sleep in the middle of the desert in the bivouac closest to their position. There they will spend the whole night under the stars, without coverage or assistance, completely disconnected from reality. Only when they complete the 584 kilometres of the qualifying race, divided into stages 6A and 6B, will they know how they arrive at the rest day in Riyadh, scheduled for the 13th, before facing the second week of the race.
Castera recalled in the presentation of the rally that the first stages are of great complexity, and also highlighted the penultimate stage, where there may be some final surprises. The stony terrain that has already spoiled the race for more than one favourite will have their dose of prominence and, in addition to the dunes, there will be, as in recent editions, several navigation traps scattered along the route. Stage 4 with a half-marathon regime (only two hours of service) will also be delicate and, in general, high mileage has been sought to demand the maximum from both the riders and their machines.
🔢 Check out the key numbers for our #Dakar2024 Heroes.
They will be 778 to live their dream. ✨ #DakarInSaudi pic.twitter.com/uqzHXOiFQg
— DAKAR RALLY (@dakar) November 20, 2023
119 Spaniards among the 778 registered
The provisional entry figures include 778 competitors, of which 119 will be Spanish, the second most represented nationality in the rally out of a total of 72. Carlos Sainz, Nani Roma, Laia Sanz, Cristina Gutiérrez, Joan Barreda and Tosha Schareina will be the main national figures of the edition, all with ambitious goals and aspirations to win in their respective categories. 46 women will take part in the start in Al Ula, just 6% of the total number of participants, a figure that underlines the huge gender gap that professional sport in general and, in particular, the world of motorsport continues to suffer.
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