The Dakar Rally returns in 2021 and the organisers have now announced the dates, route and the new list of rules for the challenging motorsport event. The Dakar Rally heads back to Saudi Arabia for the second year in a row and will continue to be held within the country, as opposed to plans of expanding it to other Middle Eastern countries including Jordan, Egypt and the UAE. The 43rd edition will be held between January 3 to 15, 2021, and registrations for the Dakar will begin on June 15, 2020. Here's everything that's new for next year's Dakar Rally
The 2021 Dakar Rally will take place in a loop course beginning and ending in Jeddah. Most of the towns and cities from this year will return on the route to host the bivouac. The 12-day rally will venture through the desert and the Red Sea, while the specials will see new routes altogether.
The 2020 Dakar witnessed the death of two riders - Hero MotoSports' Paulo Goncalves who passed away during Stage 7 this year, while Edwin Straver lost his life after an incident a few days later. Safety has been taken far more seriously for the next season and the organisers have announced several initiatives to ensure participant safety. Taking a leaf from MotoGP, the Dakar Rally will now see airbag vests being made mandatory for all bike and quad riders. Furthermore, the road books will now give competitors aural warnings about 100-200 metres before they approach the Level 2 and 3 difficulty zones. The hazardous sectors have been categorised as 'slow zones' with the speed limit restricted at 90 kmph.
New Road Book Rules
The roadbook rules will see several changes next year with the big change being that the book will be handed over just 10 minutes before the start of the stage. The idea here is to level the playing field for all competitors, irrespective of their rallying experience. The 2020 Dakar Rally saw the organisers try this out and it is now being made a standard rule from 2021. In addition to this, the roadbook now goes digital in a big change over the current paper one and will not only be easier to read but more reliable as well.
Penalties and Tyre Management
The 2021 Dakar will invite time penalties that will be applied starting from the second piston change even if the engine remains the same. The riders will not be allowed anymore to work on their bikes at refuelling stations. With respect to tyres, competitors will have to be more careful as no tyres changes will be allowed in the car category during the marathon stage. Furthermore, each motorcycle will be granted a total of six rear tyres for the entire duration of the rally.
New Dakar Classic Category
Finally, the 2021 Dakar Rally will see the addition of a new Dakar Classic category. This is a new category developed for vehicles that participated in Dakar and other major rally-raids before 2000. The Dakar Classic will run in parallel to the main rally and aims to pay a tribute to the event's origins. It will certainly be a sight for all the fans to see some of the iconic machines back in action.