All you need to know about the 2025 Dakar

Event director David Castera has merged old and new for the 47th edition of the iconic rally-raid


There are few motorsport events in the world, especially those celebrating a 47th birthday in 2025, that have been able to merge tradition with innovation in the way that the Dakar has achieved over the years.

In that respect, next year’s edition is no different.

The reasons for this are innumerable. For a start, Dakar’s event director David Castera is a former bike competitor turned car navigator, he lives and breathes cross-country rallying and the organizers, Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO), take on board the desires of competitors to shape future editions.

With the Dakar made up of an eclectic mix of seasoned ambitious professionals with big budgets, and the amateur hobbyist out to experience the original thrill of rally-raid, this is an essential trait for the organization.


Whatever your budget, Dakar remains a feat of endurance

Last weekend, the ASO therefore unveiled the initial route for the 2025 Dakar which will feature a number of key changes that include telling nods to both the past and the future.

New start and finish locations

Key to the Dakar’s tenure in Saudi Arabia, which will host the event for the sixth time next year, is utilizing the vast landscape of the country and, having started in Sea Camp and Jeddah in previous years, Bisha in the south will kick things off properly in 2025.

Pre-event technical checks and scrutineering will take place between January 1-2, with the road-order setting prologue held on January 3.

From then, the rally begins in earnest on January 4, heading north before circling back south after the rest day towards the iconic Empty Quarter which will hold three stages before the crews reach the finish in Shubaytah on January 17.

A total of 12 stages will be held across 14 days, with Castera responding to competitor feedback by selecting a route with fewer rocky sections in an effort to reduce the number of crews afflicted by punctures.


Carlos Sainz was first to reach the finish of last year's event

Navigation will remain a demanding omnipresence, with all competitors now required to use the digital roadbook, made available just 15 minutes before each special stage.

In addition, crews will face more mileage in the special stages and more dunes.

Endurance the key with Marathon Stage and 48H Chrono

Following a successful debut in the 2024 edition, the 48-hour Chrono stage will make its return next year. Crews have two days to complete over 900km of special stage but will once again be required to drive to the nearest available bivouac – several are placed along the special stage route – when the clock strikes 6pm. Basic amenities are available to crews, such as a tent and military food rations before the stage recommences at 7am sharp the following morning.

The 48H Chrono stage produced its fair share of drama in the 2024 event, with leader Yazeed Al Rajhi falling foul of the early starting position on the road and crashing his Overdrive Racing Toyota Hilux. He was unable to continue, and duly handed the lead of the rally to Audi’s Carlos Sainz, who went on to claim his fourth Dakar victory.


48H Chrono stage keeps the spirit of adventure alive for Sainz et al

Also back on the agenda is the Marathon Stage, following a similar format to that of the 48H Chrono, but with a centralized bivouac and no liaison stage.

Return of the mass start

For those old enough to remember, the swathe of bikes, cars and trucks roaring away in parallel into the wide-open sandy tracks of the African desert represented all that was great about the early days of the Dakar Rally. The side-by-side action mattered little in the grand scheme of things, particularly on stages that lasted well over 400km, but early road position and the lack of dust trails in front added a degree of strategic advantage for the quickest off the line.

That aspect of the Dakar will make its return for the final stage of the 2025, with Castera describing it as a “tribute to the past” which will “finish the Dakar Rally in style”.

Competitors in mind with split stages

While the mass start is a nod to tradition and the mid-’80s, perhaps the most significant change to the itinerary for 2025 is the splitting of special stages, which Castera says will not only help preserve the condition of routes but also help crews finish stages in daylight.


Expect much more side-by-side action than this at next year's mass start

At least five stages will have three completely separate routes, with bikes, cars and trucks following their own dedicated specials.

The Dakar has previously adopted this format in limited cases before, most notably for the 48H Chrono last year and in certain loop stages in previous editions. The ethos is sensible, as heavily rutted tracks have often become the bane of the two-wheel-drive car and Dakar Classic events.

One of the split stages will definitely take place in the Empty Quarter towards the end of the rally; the mammoth dunes of the south-eastern part of the country are particularly treacherous and Castera announced that the truck category will benefit from specifically modified stages to ensure competitors finish the special.

“Feedback acted upon” – De Mevius, Akeel

Organizing a Dakar is never an easy job. Mr Castera, chapeau to you! It’s all about compromise but the real triumph of the Dakar is its dedication to finding the right balance between equal sporting opportunity and the sort of challenge that defined the original Dakar adventure as imagined by Thierry Sabine in the late 1970s.

Rally Paris (FRA) - Dakar (SEN) 01-22 01 1985

The spirit of Thierry Sabine lives on as the Dakar reaches its 47th edition

Overdrive Racing’s T1 Ultimate competitor Guillaume de Mevius, who finished second in the 2024 edition said: “The organization has worked hard and listened to the competitors; it’s awesome. They’ve come up with amazing new ideas for the bike riders, as well as the Ultimate, Challenger and SSV competitors.

It’ll be a beautiful and arduous edition. Having the 48H Chrono stage back on the menu is good news [and] finishing in the dunes will be a little extra challenge.”

Taurus Factory Team Challenger driver and Saudi local Dania Akeel added: “It promises to be spectacular! The way the organizers have structured the challenges is very interesting. We’ll have the 48H Chrono early on, then the Marathon Stage before finishing in the dunes. I like the format, the standing [mass] start will be impressive and motivating for drivers and it shakes up the rally.”

All eyes on 2025

Castera also confirmed the return of the Mission 1000 class, which features new and emerging technologies in each category, as well as the Original by Motul bike category which is reserved for amateur crews without assistance.

In the Ultimate car class, Carlos Sainz will defend his title in the colors of M-Sport as he makes his first Dakar appearance for Ford, while Dacia will also makes it much-anticipated debut with Sébastien Loeb, Nasser Al-Attiyah and Cristina Gutiérrez Herrero debuting the Sandrider.

Words:Stephen Brunsdon