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2022 DAKAR: The new face of rally-raids

Key points:

Ø  The details of the 44th edition of the Dakar, scheduled to take place in Saudi Arabia from 1 to 14 January, were unveiled in this morning’s presentation (viewable on all the Dakar’s official platforms), held in the presence of many favourites including Frenchman Stéphane Peterhansel (cars), Argentinian Kevin Benavides (motorbikes), American Austin Jones (T4/SSV Series) and Russian Dmitry Sotnikov (trucks). The roll call will be in Jeddah, but things will only get serious in Ha’il. Riyadh, the capital, will host the rest day, following which the field will head back towards Jeddah for the finale.

Ø  Following years of discussion to finalise unified regulations, the Dakar will be part of the FIA and FIM World Rally Championships for cross-country rallying. In line with these reforms, A.S.O. has been designated as the promoter of this competition, consisting of five legs in the 2022 season.

Ø  The Dakar’s commitment to the energy transition has also passed a key milestone with the launch of the “Dakar Future” plan: the creation of the T1-Ultimate category for cars running on alternative fuels by the FIA.

Ø  The 430 vehicles in the race and the 148 crews in the second edition of the Dakar Classic will undergo technical and administrative scrutineering in Jeddah on 30 and 31 December.

Screen Shot at AM

The show will get on the road in Jeddah, the port city that welcomed Dakar entrants to Saudi Arabia in 2020 and is set to host the Formula One World Championship on its Corniche Circuit in a week’s time. The prologue will kick off 2022 with a trek to Ha’il, located at the crossroads of the historical trade routes of Saudi Arabia. A 19 km mini-special will spice up the long transfer. The prologue will provide a fleeting glimpse of things to come in the 44th edition: “sand in all shapes and colours”, as David Casteraputs it, promising desert aficionados as many dunes as they can take, as well as a hodgepodge of tracks that will tease the minds and knot the stomachs of even the very best navigators. Man and machine alike will have their endurance put to the test over a total distance of more than 8,000 km, in a journey that will take them to the capital in Riyadh before returning to the shores of the Red Sea. The stopwatch will be running for about 4,300 km of specials.

True Dakar veterans and numerous rookies have heeded the call of the sands to make up the largest field in almost a decade, totalling 430 vehicles in the race and another 148 in the Dakar Classic. This fresh momentum coincides with the launch of a new format, as the Dakar is incorporated to the FIA and FIM cross-country world championships, a five-round circuit that will stoke the drama of top-flight competition throughout the season. While the headline event of the year is also the first, those who miss out on the top honours in Jeddah will remain in contention for a prestigious world champion title to be decided in Abu Dhabi in March, Kazakhstan in April, Andalusia in June and Morocco in October. The road to glory for the riders, drivers, co-drivers and constructors who come out on top will also make the scenario easier to grasp for fans, particularly through increased media coverage of rally-raids.

January 2022 also marks the launch of another major challenge with the deployment of the initial phase of the “Dakar Future” plan, which aims to have a field composed entirely of low-emission vehicles by 2030. To kick-start this energy transition, the joint work with FIA to encourage constructors to develop alternative-fuel vehicles has already led to a tangible result in the shape of the creation of the T1-Ultimate (T1.U) category. Four cars will be entering this category in its inaugural edition: Audi with a contingent of three hybrid RS Q e-tron spearheaded by Stéphane Peterhansel; and GCK, which is banking on biofuels, led by Guerlain Chicherit in a preliminary effort before fielding a hydrogen-powered 4×4. Gaussin’s truck, which will be in Saudi Arabia for demonstration purposes, uses the same technology. The major players of the Dakar have the role of test pilots on the cutting edge of science, excited to do their bit for the development of the vehicles of tomorrow.