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Dakar Rally 2021 kicks off with formal opening in Jeddah
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 02 - 01 - 2021

In the presence of Jeddah Governor Prince Mishaal Bin Majid and Minister of Sports Prince Abdulaziz Bin Turki Al-Faisal, King Abdullah Sports City here witnessed on Saturday the formal opening ceremony of the Saudi Dakar Rally 2021, before the official start of the race on Sunday.
The race will last for 13 days, cover a distance of more than 7,600 km, with the participation of more than 500 contestants from around the world.
The Rally is organized by the Ministry of Sport, in coordination with the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation, falls in line with the Saudi Vision 2030 and the Quality of Life Program.
The competitors are set to cross 10 Saudi cities, within 12 different stages, passing through several governorates, cities and regions of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, with a total distance of 7,600 km.
The opening ceremony, which was also attended by Prince Khalid Bin Sultan Al Abdullah Al-Faisal, chairman of the board of directors of the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation, presented the vehicles participating in the six racing categories.
The categories are cars, motorcycles, quad motorcycles, trucks and light desert vehicles, in addition to the new category Dakar Classic, which joins the Dakar Rally for the first time.
The opening ceremony included the arrival of the most prominent contestants to the stage of the event to display their vehicles and greet the Dakar family, in line with the ancient rally traditions.
On this occasion, Sports Minister Prince Abdulaziz said: "I would like to express my happiness and pride in this historic moment we are living in with the announcement of the launch of the Dakar Rally in the Kingdom for the second year in a row.
"And in this regard I renew my sincere thanks and appreciation to the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman and Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman, deputy prime minister and minister of defense who had a great role to the establishment of this great global event."
2021 Dakar Rally is the 43rd edition of the motorsport rally, which is considered the most dangerous rally in the world. It will witness over 500 participants who will compete in five categories — cars, motorcycles, quads, UTV vehicles and trucks. In the last category, 41 teams with two or three crew-members (driver, pilot and mechanic) take part.
Competitors will traverse a total of 7,646 kilometers (4,751 miles), of which 4,767km (2,962 miles) will be timed, signifying a small reduction compared to the 2020 race.
Across all classes, 295 vehicles are entered, a significant drop on the 342 that took part in 2020 and the lowest tally since the 1997 Dakar Rally, contested by 280 vehicles. Among the 501 participants will be 16 women, three more than a year ago.
As in previous years, the 2021 Dakar will feature a 'Marathon' stage, in which competitors will have to do without team assistance, covering stages seven and eight (Jan. 10-11) from Hail to Neom, with a bivouac in Sakaka.
The longest stage of the rally will be the fourth stage, running between Wadi Ad-Dawasir and Riyadh (813km, of which 337km are timed), while the special with the most kilometers will be the penultimate, between AlUla and Yanbu (511km timed).
In addition to a strict COVID-19 protocol involving several PCR tests before arriving in Saudi Arabia and in the days prior to the start of the rally, a 48-hour quarantine upon arrival and social distancing measures in the bivouac, the Dakar will have several new sporting features.
The main one being the introduction of an electronic road book (in the form of a tablet) for the elite drivers in cars, trucks and SSV. In addition, to continue to check that no one has a competitive advantage over others, the road book will be delivered 10 minutes before the start of all stages for cars, trucks and SSV, and 20 minutes before for motorcycles.
The Dakar has also worked with the FIM and the manufacturers since last March to try to improve safety after the deaths of motorcycle riders Paulo Goncalves and Edwin Straver in the 2020 edition. Thus, a mandatory airbag vest will be introduced for all participants in the motorcycle and quad classes, and a series of measures will be taken to reduce speeds. — SG

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