The 45th edition of the Dakar will begin with a short prologue from the shores of the Red Sea on December 31, with the results determining the starting order for the first full stage on New Year’s Day.
The rally will move east from there, with three stages – including the marathon – taking place in the grueling Saudi Arabian sand desert popularly known as the Empty Quarter.
The action will end on January 15 in Dammam on the east coast of the country, the exact schedule – including the now traditional rest day – will be announced later.
No information was provided on how far the competitors will cover during the two-week journey across Saudi Arabia, but the ASO said 70% of the route will be new compared to the last two years.
It will be the first time the Dakar has had 14 stages since 2018, when Peru, Argentina and Bolivia jointly hosted the event in South America.
The route was reduced to just 10 stages in 2019 when Peru became the sole host nation, after Chile pulled out of participation at the last minute and talks with other Latin nations fell through.
The ASO was able to increase the number of stages to 12 when it moved the Dakar to the Middle East in 2020, but this was still fewer than competitors were used to in South America.
Sunday’s announcement also confirms that the Dakar will be held entirely in Saudi Arabia for the third consecutive year, although the domestic exclusivity clause in the contract expired after the inaugural event was held in the Arab country in 2020.
External factors such as the COVID-19 pandemic previously forced the ASO to confine the Dakar to Saudi Arabia, although it has repeatedly expressed its desire to make the rally a multi-country event again.
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Photo by: ASO
The ASO has also announced a series of regulatory changes for the 2023 Dakar Rally which will affect competitors of different classes.
First, all riders in the motorcycle category will receive digital roadbooks from 2023, implementing the same change that has been in place for some time in the car and truck divisions.
The ASO added that there will be no neutral sections for competitors in the T1 and T2 sub-divisions in the car category, which means that each stage will run continuously throughout the day without a break. .
There will also be a focus on navigation, with competitors having to find different points at two different locations on certain stages.
In addition, cars and trucks will start for each stage in the order of the general classification of the day before, breaking with the tradition of starting according to the results of the previous stage.