2023 Dakar: the sand diagonal
Jedda (Saudi Arabia) – There will be a new itinerary for the fourth edition of the Dakar in Saudi Arabia from December 31, 2022, to January 15, 2023 and 1st round ot the FIA-FIM World Rally-Raid Championship.
The route will take the pilots from the beaches of the Red Sea to the sands of the Arabian Gulf in Dammam. This crossing of the country will be, in fact, a complete tour as the 14 stages will first lead the Dakar to the north-western mountain regions before heading to the deep southeast for a three-day journey through ocean of dunes in the Empty Quarter.
AN XXL BIVOUAC STARTING WITH THE “CHECKS”
The competitors will arrive in Saudi Arabia in friendly atmosphere near the beach. The new start format will accommodate the entire Dakar caravan during the final technical and administrative checks, which will take place mainly at the Castellet circuit at the end of November. The structures have been redesigned for the occasion to include entertainment and provide areas for conviviality and interaction. The “Sea Camp” concept consists of taking over a piece of desert by the sea. The adventure has already begun.
1 + 14 = 15 DAYS OF COMPETITION
The 2023 Dakar is characterised by its length, with 14 stages plus a prologue for 15 days of competition. The itinerary includes 70% new special stages. It is also the densest rally format in its modern era. The overwhelming majority of the special stages are close to 450 kilometres. The liaison sectors will be shorter, with the finish lines closer to the bivouacs, which will reduce liaison times. In total, with almost 5,000 kilometres of special stages, this edition will feature the longest distance of competition since 2014.
THREE DAYS IN THE EMPTY QUARTER
The Dakar competitors have become familiar with this immense region of Saudi territory designated as the “Empty Quarter” of the Arabian Peninsula. But forays to the marathon bivouac at Shubeyta in 2020 or loops traced from Wadi Ad Dawasir only revealed a minuscule portion of this vast desert. Thanks to the route that provides communications with the neighbouring state of Oman, a much deeper immersion is now possible and allows for a bivouac to be set up in the extreme-eastern region of Saudi Arabia. The pilots will also have to cope with the challenge of a marathon stage during the three days in the Empty Quarter.
THE “EXPLORERS” REWARDED
The Dakar has the distinction of assembling the most successful competitors on the planet and enthusiasts who set themselves the sporting challenge of a lifetime with much less pretension. The mutual pride in competing on the same route is part and parcel of the essence of the Dakar. The respective means of the professionals and the amateurs provide additional encouragement to the latter, who will benefit each day from a separate classification and prize money. There will be a list of “Factory” drivers for each category based on the results in their rally-raid careers. “Explorers” will compete for valuable bonuses to validate their improvement in the discipline: equipment, etc.
RANDOM ROADBOOKS: NO COPYING!
The principle has been known for a long time in elementary schools where teachers sometimes hand out different assignments to two neighbouring students…, which is the best way to ensure that clever competitors will not be tempted to copy. Similarly, the routes of most of the special stages will be split into two over a more or less long section, with the roadbooks of A and B routes assigned randomly. Competitors tempted to follow their predecessors without thinking run the risk of missing their waypoints and thus incur severe penalties.
BIKES: A BONUS FOR OPENING A STAGE
The sequence of stages causes a yo-yo effect among the leading riders that can give credence to opportunist race strategies. Being the first to start a stage is the most delicate position of all. It so happens that the stage victory can be perceived as a disadvantage to such an extent that some riders voluntarily forego the win to avoid exposing themselves to a quasi-inevitable loss of time the following day. This year, time compensations will be awarded.
A DIGITAL ROADBOOK FOR EVERYONE
Paper is a thing of the past. For the past several years, “tablets” have appeared in the cars and then trucks before being tested by the elite category riders. The system has been thoroughly tested and is now ready to be used in all categories. All vehicles will be equipped with this digital version beginning this year.
DAKAR CLASSIC: TWO NEW CHALLENGES
With 140 vehicles, the second edition of the Dakar Classic was a great success and highlighted the significant differences in potential between the older cars and those from the late 1990s. Thus, an additional speed group, called H0, has been added to define lower average speeds adapted to less powerful cars. There will be two new challenges: “Authentic Codriver Challenge” for vehicles that enter without modern regularity instruments; and “Iconic Classic Club” for original vehicles that participated in the Dakar in the 20th century, thus excluding all “replicas”. A selection committee will limit the number of entries to a maximum of 150.
“DAKAR FUTURE”: A FURTHER STEP FORWARD
The Dakar saw a decisive step forward in its energy transition in 2022 with the creation of the T1-U category and the spectacular entry of Audi’s hybrid 4x4s, winners of 4 special stages with Carlos Sainz, Mattias Ekstrom and Stéphane Peterhansel. New projects are being developed and progress goes on thanks to the use of biofuels or synthetic fuels that drastically reduce the vehicles’ carbon footprint.