Dates, route, new features and more revealed

In a presentation on Saturday, it was announced that the 2025 Dakar Rally will kick off on 3 January from Bisha and conclude on the 17th of the same month in Shubaytah, two places that are already familiar to existing competitors.

Rally director David Castera has engineered an event that seeks balance in order to maintain the excitement until the end, but with some key hurdles such as the now-famous 48-Hour Stage that was introduced last year, the marathon special, a mass start on one day and a passage through the gruelling Empty Quarter sand desert towards the end.

But perhaps the most striking change is the difference in the routes between cars/trucks and bikes on certain days, which meant the ASO had to lay out more courses than usual.

Added to that would be a Power Stage of sorts, much like the World Rally Championship does on Sundays at each event. It is an idea that is expected to make its way to the rest of the World Rally-Raid Championship by 2026 in an attempt to bring rallies closer to the public.

What’s new for the 2025 Dakar Rally Spain sat down for a chat with Castera in which he explained what’s new for the Dakar Rally.

Although he insisted he wanted to keep the trip through Empty Quarter in the same form, he felt something had to be done to keep the competitors in optimum condition.

«This year we have done different routes for cars, trucks and bikes. So we have the 48-hour stage, which is [run over] two days, so I’m working on four more totally different special stages for the categories, and there are three consequences,» he explained.

«The first thing is that the ones behind, the amateurs, [they] would finish very late at night, because in Saudi Arabia it gets dark very early. If they all start together, because they will all start the same for 300 metres and [then] they will separate their paths, they will come together to refuel and they will come back again for the finish,» he said.

«That way, hardly anyone will go [out] at night. Unless they are very slow or in trouble, they are going to finish the race the same day, and for me it’s another way of racing which is important.

«The second consequence is that the car guys are going to have to navigate a lot more [without the trail left by bikes], the co-drivers are going to have a lot of work to do.

«And the third is safety, especially for the bikes, which won’t mix with the cars and they won’t have the dust, they won’t overtake each other.

«On top of that, we ended up with the Empty Quarter, something I’ve had in mind since we started work.

«Everyone is very happy with the dunes, but then we have to see how to do it, with not very long stages in the middle of the rally, and I’m going to do what nobody thinks, because it’s also true that I like it.

«We will have three days, with stages 10 and 11 with big dunes, and the small stage 12 to finish, with a mass start reminiscent of the old days of the Dakar, when they all started together.

«We are trying something like that, and we are going to do the same as in the WRC with the Power Stage, whoever wins gets more points for the world championship,» he said.

«So, we are going to play a little bit with the last special stage, which is short and is going to end in a bivouac a little bit special, because I like the idea of being close to the desert, which is the DNA of the Dakar, and we are going to do a traditional bivouac, a little bit African-style, with the marathon tent to give a different touch, the spirit of what I like.»

Features of the Dakar Rally 2025

Castera wanted to do something better for each category, so cars/trucks and bikes will have different routes on certain stages, but that’s not all. The Frenchman said he always listens to the other people around him, both competitors and his own team at ASO, and that’s how he came up with the route for 2025.

Therefore, the race will start with a Prologue and a loop in the city of Bisha. For stages 10, 11 and 12, the competitors will head towards the dangerous and unknown Empty Quarter, with special stages that will be over 350 kilometres long, in addition to the 48 Hour special that was so successful in the last edition of the event.

«The idea is to be more or less the same as last year, because I have found a balance that I like, and that the drivers also like. They finish very happy, so I want to continue along that path, and we have worked to maintain that level of difficulty, there is no special stage with less than 350 kilometres, except for the last one, and everything will be complicated», Castera revealed.

On the technical side, there will be some changes, with special emphasis on the T2/stock class, as there is currently very little interest in the category. The ASO is working to get more manufacturers to join Toyota. Castero spoke of Jaguar or Defender as candidates to enter, although he thinking more about 2026 because getting new manufacturers on board «takes time».

The ASO will pay attention to the performance of each car in the Ultimate category, using a Balance of Performance [BoP] system that is very similar to the one used in the World Endurance Championship. However, this will be based only on the power generated by a car through the engine’s torque level. This allows «to be very precise about the power of each car to achieve the balance,» according to Castera.

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