As one of the most iconic and legendary motorsports events in the world, the Dakar Rally is steeped in tradition and history. This year will bring new stages, new vehicles, and nearly 3,000 miles of new, never-raced terrain to the 2024 Dakar Rally. This year promises to be filled with excitement, heartbreak, and history as we see the clash of new and old. Veterans and rookies alike will all take on the challenge of the Saudi Arabian desert. Join Off Road Xtreme as we dive into the 2024 Dakar Rally.
For the 46th edition of the Dakar Rally and fifth occasion through Saudi Arabia’s magnificent deserts, 820 competitors from 68 nationalities will attempt to cover approximately 6,000 miles, over 1 prologue, 12 stages, and 14 days of racing. The official dates are January 5-19, 2024.
What Is the Dakar Rally
The Dakar Rally is an annual race and part of the World Rally-Raid Championship (W2RC). Running since 1978, the race is one of the longest, most challenging events in motorsports. The Dakar has traveled the globe over the years with new courses and challenges being the standard. This year the race returns to a familiar place, Saudi Arabia, but it promises to present all new challenges to the drivers and crew with 3,000 miles of new course and a new monster stage.
Split into stages, the teams will be timed through over 2,900 miles of specials (Specials are the timed sections of course where drivers must hit a series of waypoints as fast as possible). Five different categories of vehicles will all be competing for class victories amongst motorcycles, quads, cars, trucks, and lightweights.
2024 Dakar Rally: The Motorcycle Riders To Watch
A solo rider in a sea of endless dunes is often the image many think of when they picture the Dakar Rally. Motorcycles and quads offer racers a grueling solo challenge, acting as driver, navigator, and even mechanic across the stages. A win in Motorcycles is one of the most prestigious titles sought after in the competition. Let’s take a look at who to watch this year.
Last year’s champion, Kevin Benavides will be looking for a third title on his Red Bull KTM. His teammate, Toby Price led the class up till the final stage in 2023 and will also be hungry for a win in 2024.
Skyler Howes was the top U.S. finisher last year in Third overall and has joined the Monster Energy Honda Team. Pushing hard to move up the podium, he is in good company with Ricky Brabec, his Honda teammate, who has competed in the Dakar Rally nine times and won in 2020.
While trucks reign supreme as the premier off-road class in North America, things work a little differently at Dakar. The truck classes are all production-based large vehicles and not the “trucks” we are used to seeing over here in the States. These giants of the desert always prove to be an exciting class to watch and 2024 will be no different.
2024 Dakar Rally: UTVs
Better known in the U.S. as UTVS, the lightweights of Dakar are split into two classes. Formerly known as T4 and T3, FIA, the sanctioning body of Dakar and W2RC, has renamed the categories as SSV and Challenger divisions. The SSV (T4) is the recognizable production-based UTV while Challenger (T3) houses the prototype vehicles that are one-off purpose-built creations.
The South Racing Can-Am Maverick team was a dominating figure in the prior year’s Dakar with Austin Jones winning T4 in 2022, and then again in 2023 claiming victories in both the T3 and T4 with Jones and Seth Quintero. The South Racing Ca-Am effort will again offer prominent competition with Austin Jones racing in the Challenger (T3) class.
Sarah Price’s Road To Dakar
Aiming to break records and win streaks, Sara Price, will no doubt be one to watch in the SSV division. Sarah has an amazing story that led to her competing in the 2024 Dakar Rally, her very first event. She is an X-Games Gold Medalist, a championship-winning Trophy Truck Spec off-road desert racer, an Extreme E event winner, and even a Hollywood stunt driver.
With dreams and aspirations of racing the Dakar, Price partnered with Can-Am in 2023 and posted an impressive string of back-to-back victories as she prepared for a lifetime of challenges. In 2023, Sarah went on to win the Mint 400, and then a First overall victory at the Sonora Rally secured her entry into the Dakar Rally with a Road To Dakar free admission grant. Days later she decided to enter the NORRA Mexican 1000 on a whim and won her class. Sarah kept the streak going with a Dos Mares 500 podium finish.
A big win at the SCORE-International 2023 Baja 500 is another golden cherry for Price but she was not done there. Sarah added a big feather to her cap winning the California 300 and securing the Unlimited Off-Road Triple Crown Championship. Finally, in the lead-up to the 2024 Dakar Rally, Price makes history becoming the first American female to win a rally raid (W2RC) stage win on her way to a second-place finish overall in the Rallye du Maroc.
All incredible accomplishments in their own right, but to string it together in less than a year is incredible. Watch out for Sarah Price making history again at the 2024 Dakar Rally in her South Racing Can-Am Maverick SSV.
There is more big news in the UTV world around Dakar with Polaris and their RZR Pro R platform. A partnership between Polaris and Sebastien Lobe Racing should be something to watch as Xavier De Soultrait and Florent Vayssade pilot these T4s. Last year’s runner-up, Cristiano Batista will also be a strong contender in the class.
This year, the T3 class is so full of talent, that it really could be anyone’s race. Last year Team Red Bull USA went big, as we mentioned drivers Austin Jones and Seth Quintero taking the top two spots in the class. This year, Austin will be looking for a repeat, and Seth has moved on to a new class.
Red Bull teammate, Mich Guthrie Jr. had a rough time in Dakar last year but finished the W2RC season strong. Look for him to come out swinging in the 2024 DAKAR rally. Yet another Red Bull team member to keep an eye out for is Cristina Gutierrez who finished the 2023 Dakar Rally with a final stage win, she has proven speed and ability to make it to the end.
2024 Dakar Rally: Cars
In 2024, the premier class of the Dakar rally will be one for the record books. With top talent aligned with new teams, new talent entering the fray and even a new manufacturer jumping into the fight. No one knows how it will all play out in the Saudi Arabian desert yet but here are some stories to watch unfold.
Nasser Al-Attiyah will be pushing for his sixth Dakar win and this time he has a new ride. Nasser is leaving his Toyota Hilux for a PRODRIVE Hunter in the T1 class. PRODRIVE has yet to capture a Dakar win, but Nasser has proven his ability in Saudi Arabia and could put them on the podium this year.
Toyota has some changes for this year too. After a strong finish in the UTV lightweights last year, Seth Quintero has joined Toyota Gazoo Racing and will be piloting his Hilux with a real chance at being the youngest overall and first U.S. native winner.
“I’m addicted to progression, obsessed by it, and this step up to T1+ is all I’ve been thinking about for a while.” – Seth Quintero
Toyota’s Gazoo Racing will also be fielding entries with Lucas Moraes, who was the surprise sensation of the last Dakar, finishing on the final podium during his rookie year. The Toyota GR DKR Hilux T1+ is powered by a radical 3.5-litre V6 twin-turbo engine.
2023 was not a great Dakar Rally for AUDI. This year, the venerable lineup of Stephane Peterhansel, Carlos Sainz Sr, and Mattias Ekstrom will be looking for redemption. Any of those three could challenge the title if RS Q E-Trons can last.
“That’s a Ford *&%$@#$ Ranger!” videos might just flood the social media feeds if M-Sport NWM has anything to say about it. Ford Performance has partnered with South African-based Neil Woodridge Motorsports to test the waters of Dakar. They are campaigning a Ford Ranger Raptor piloted by former winner Nani Roma. The team could make a run in their debut.
2024 Dakar Rally: The Course
Twelve stages across fourteen days are what stands between the drivers and a finish at the 2024 Dakar Rally. Here is a quick breakdown of the daily action to expect. A special note is stage 6a/6b, a first-ever 48-hour chrono stage that will have drivers pushing for distance until the 4:00 p.m. cut-off. That night there is no crew to help, no tools or spares, and the driver will be limited to relying on what they carried in.
The Stage Schedule
Friday, January 5, 2024- Prologue: this is a loop that will come down to an 18-mile sprint to determine stage 1’s leaving order.
Saturday, January 6, 2024 – ALULA > AL HENAKIYAH: 336 miles of tough terrain through geological features never seen before in Dakar will set the pace for the race.
Sunday, January 7, 2024 – AL HENAKIYAH > AL DUWADIMI: Over 400 miles of course starting with dunes and turning into blistering fast sections where both endurance and speed will collide.
Monday, January 8, 2024 – AL DUWADIMI > AL SALAMIYA: The first of marathon stages, stage 3 will only offer teams two hours of prep and repair time after 450 miles of mixed terrain testing the vehicles and drivers.
Tuesday, January 9, 2024 – AL SALAMIYA > AL-HOFUF: Driving towards an oasis of over three million date palms, drivers must be wary not to make costly navigational mistakes on the second half of the marathon stage.
Wednesday, January 10, 2024 – AL-HOFUF > SHUBAYTAH: A long liaison section will add to the exhaustion, but drivers must keep their wits about them as the stage ends in a sea of dunes welcoming the drivers to the empty quarter.
Thursday, January 11, 2024, & Friday, January 12, 2024 – SHUBAYTAH > SHUBAYTAH: This two-part stage is the newest addition to Dakar, the 48-hour Chrono. When the clock strikes 4:00 p.m., the teams will halt their progress and proceed to the next of six campsites along the course. Once there, they are on their own until racing begins again in the morning. Any repairs will be up to the driver teams with the limited tools and parts they carried in. Add that to the fact that nearly the entire 500 miles will be spent in the dunes, it’s guaranteed to be a testing point for even the most grizzled Dakar veterans.
Saturday, January 13, 2024 – RIYADH: A well-deserved day of rest in the capital will be a chance for drivers to recoup and vehicles to get some needed TLC.
Sunday, January 14, 2024 – RIYADH > AL DUWADIMI: The second week of racing will throw the drivers into an endless maze of canyons which then open up to more of Saudi Arabia’s signature dunes.
Monday, January 15, 2024 – AL DUWADIMI > HAIL: Stage 8 is what looks like an easier stage, but the terrain can be deceiving and change quickly from sand to rocks increasing the risk for flats and breakdowns.
Tuesday, January 16, 2024 – HAIL > AL ULA: Breathtaking views and rough tracks are what await the drivers at this stage.
Wednesday, January 17, 2024 – AL ULA > AL ULA: This loop stage will test everyone, with so many navigational challenges, it could quickly become a game of follow the leader, but that’s no way to make up time.
Thursday, January 18, 2024 – AL ULA > YANBU: One of the most punishing stages of the race, it will likely yield the most flats of any, allowing savvy racers to make up time by not going recklessly through the harsh terrain.
Friday, January 19, 2024 – YANBU > YANBU: With 108 miles of timed course remaining, it may be too late for racers to make up a lot of time. But at Dakar, it’s never too late to lose time.
How To Watch The 2024 Dakar Rally
If you want to catch a daily recap of all the action from Saudi Arabia, there will be a few options. MAVTV will have a daily broadcast recap every day at noon. Peacock will offer highlights through their streaming service. If you prefer to find your updates via YouTube, NBC Sports will be posting daily updates on their feed.
Pro tip: Our fellow off-road insider, @Fishgistics will be getting regular updates sent in from American competitors and passing that along to followers on Instagram.
Of course, you can also stay tuned to Off Road Xtreme to catch up on all the action. We will be publishing a mid-race recap, with the highlights and heartbreaks from week one. There will also be a full recap after the dust settles and the trophies are hoisted.