PARIS, FRANCE (NOVEMBER 19, 2019) (REUTERS - ACCESS ALL)
1. (SOUNDBITE) (French) DAKAR RALLY DIRECTOR, DAVID CASTERA, SAYING:
"People only talk about that and it's a country that they don't even know. We have to give them a chance and we have to go there and see. You say it's only about their image, only about their image, maybe it's only about their image but let's see and let's give them a chance to see it through and we will take a view at the end. I think it's too easy to criticise them beforehand."
2. MAP OF RALLY
3. (SOUNDBITE) (French) DAKAR RALLY DIRECTOR, DAVID CASTERA, SAYING:
"We would like to have a Saudi woman take part in the Rally, there was one candidate but she didn't have the experience so she decided to train and next year we will see a Saudi woman at the start. We spend a lot of time there and we see the country change. The other day when I was in my car, a Saudi woman overtook me and I thought that was interesting but every month or so or every fortnight, I go there and I notice the changes. We can see that the country is opening up. Women will be welcome and there won't be any restrictions on that."
RIYADH, SAUDI ARABIA (FILE - JUNE 24, 2018) (REUTERS - ACCESS ALL)
5. VARIOUS OF SAUDI WOMAN DRIVING
STORY: For the first time next year, the starting gun for the Dakar Rally will be fired in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
The 2020 edition will take place entirely within the borders of the kingdom starting on January 5 and ending, 12 stages and 9,000 kilometres later, in Al-Qiddiya, near Riyadh, on January 17.
After ten years spent in South America, the competition has turned to the Gulf for the first time and the choice of its new home has caused some controversy.
"Let's give them a chance to see it through and we will take a view at the end," Dakar Rally Director David Castera told Reuters in an interview on Tuesday (November 19).
Saudi Arabia has allowed women to drive since June 2018 and Castera said he would love to see a Saudi woman participating in the Rally over the course of its five year contract in the country.
The route will take in the mountains to the north and the Rub' al-Khali -- or "Empty Quarter" -- desert region in the south of the country where dunes can be more than 250 metres high.
Saudi Arabia will become the 30th country visited by the Dakar Rally. It started in 1977 as a race from Paris across the Sahara desert to the Senegalese capital in West Africa and has long been regarded as the world's toughest motorsport challenge.
It had been staged in South America since 2009, and entirely in Peru last year, after leaving Africa for security reasons.