Fresh route, new safety measures unveiled for 2021 Dakar Rally


Paris (AFP)

The second edition of the Dakar Rally in Saudi Arabia, scheduled to run from January 3-15 next year, will start and finish in Jeddah after venturing through the desert and along the Rea Sea, organisers revealed Thursday.

The 2021 version of the gruelling 12-day marathon will take participants into uncharted territory, with all timed sections of the loop course brand new to the race.

Competitors will set off from Jeddah towards the east and then head north, with a rest day in Ha'il on January 9, before tracing the Red Sea coastline back to the finish.

"We've made the most of all of Saudi Arabia," rally director David Castera told AFP. "The country is so big that we managed to only use only 50-100km of this year's course.

"During each stage we find a bit of all the ingredients. We tried to keep a bit of the dunes, the technical sections and the quick parts each day."

Following the deaths of two motorcyclists, Portugal's Paulo Goncalves and Dutchman Edwin Straver, on this year's rally, new safety measures will be introduced in 2021.

Riders will be forced to wear airbag vests, while aural warnings will notify competitors in the approach to potential dangers with designated "slow zones" limiting the speed to 90km/h in especially tricky sectors.

Following a test run in 2020, road books will be distributed to participants just before the start of each stage, as opposed to the previous evening. Digital versions will be available in certain categories.