Starting January 5, 2020, the ‘Rally Dakar’ will lead through Saudi Arabia for the very first time. Saudi Arabia not only offers endless sand, but also mountainous and rocky areas. In the eyes of KTM consultant Heinz Kinigadner, ‘Dakar’ organizer ASO is making the right move.

Die ‘Dakar’ in Saudi-Arabien für Heinz Kinigadner “sportlich sehr positiv”

However, on the political world map, Saudi Arabia is anything but a stronghold of human rights. A criterion that hardly seems to burden the ASO. “We as a team have to try to focus on the sport,” says Kinigadner.

Heinz Kinigadner: “Many have the hope that the Dakar can now return to the roots.”

“We at KTM want to strictly separate politics and sport”, says Heinz Kinigadner: “Our teams participate in competitions around the world, including countries where human rights are not sufficiently respected. China for example, or Turkey. This is very often a balancing act. As always, we will not comment on the situation in a host country.” The ASO decides completely autonomously where the Dakar takes place. The teams have no say in this process.

From a sporting point of view, however, Saudi Arabia is a good choice for Heinz Kinigadner: “Many have the hope that the Dakar can now return to the roots. With many classic desert stages and very fast stages. A big advantage is that we are in an area where no one can train before the rally. It will be just like many years ago in Mali or Mauritania, where nobody could explore the terrain before the rally. That’s a nice challenge and very positive.”

Support in Saudi Arabia is organized by a knowledgeable man. Sports Minister Prince Abdulaziz Al Faisal is a multiple Middle East Porsche Cup winner and is now involved in endurance racing. “That will have a positive effect”, says Heinz Kinigadner. He also speaks of the visit of a representative of the minister to KTM in Mattighofen. Kinigadner says he now knows more about Saudi Arabia’s plans for the Dakar: “2020 will be driven only in Saudi Arabia. For the second year, they seem to be considering the inclusion of neighboring countries on the Arabian Peninsula. And it looks like they want to lead the rally later towards Egypt. The ultimate goal could be to lead the “Dakar Rally” from Saudi Arabia via Egypt to Senegal. As far as I know, Saudi Arabia has invested a lot of money in Senegal. So there are also economic motives. Anyway, it would be a homecoming for the Dakar.” (c. panny, hubert lafer)

STORY: “We must slow down the Dakar!” (and why that won’t happen at Dakar 2019)
FROM THE ARCHIVE: “Unfortunately they made me go first…” – Heinz Kinigadner & the Dakar

photos (c) Marcin Kin & Ray Archer