Monday, June 24, 2024

Dakar Rally’s port of departure moving to Barcelona

The Dakar Rally is exclusively held in Saudi Arabia (for now?), but some would say the rally truly begins in Europe as teams congregate their vehicles at a port there before boarding ships to the race location. According to a report from TV3, this port will move to Barcelona, Spain, for the 2024 edition. The Amaury Sport Organisation has not confirmed the news.

The port of departure was traditionally the Marseille-Fos in France, providing a lingering connection to the rally’s roots when it began in Paris before racing to Dakar in Senegal.

Teams bring their cars and bikes to the port—itself a process that showcases the grid’s diversity as larger operations haul their vehicles in trucks while privateers and traditionalists directly drive them to France—where they receive initial inspection. For the 2024 Rally, the port will be open at the end of November.

Once everyone is approved and accounted for, which takes a month to complete, the vehicles are loaded onto ferries that will take them across the Mediterranean to Yanbu in Saudi Arabia. Shakedowns are scheduled for 2/3 January, followed by final technical scrutineering on 3/4 January. The race begins on 5 January.

The Port de Barcelona is one of the largest in Europe, considered the main hub for transporting cargo and passengers to and from Western Europe.

Barcelona first hosted the Dakar Rally in 1989, with teams arriving from Paris for the Prologue stage which went through Avinguda Meridiana, Carrer d’Aragó, and Carrer de Tarragona. The city did so again in 2005, beginning at the Venetian Towers and running to Castelldefels. Vehicle checks for the latter took place at the Palau Sant Jordi.

The move comes amid reports that the World Rally-Raid Championship, in which Dakar serves as the season opener, is considering organising a round that runs between Spain and Portugal. The Andalucía Rally in southern Spain was on the inaugural W2RC calendar in 2022 before being removed for 2023, while the country also currently has the Baja España Aragón on the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Bajas schedule.