For the first time since its inception in 1978, the Dakar Rally (or simply “The Dakar“), has been canceled. The reason given by the event’s French organizer, Amaury Sport Organization, is due to safety concerns for the participants.
Coupled with international tensions in the region and recent terrorist events on the route, the race promoters determined that the high profile, international event was too inviting to terrorists — and too easy a target.
The estimated 550 competitors were to have blasted off Jan 5, 2008 on a 16-day, 5,760-mile endurance race through remote and hostile dunes, rocks, mud and pretty much every terrain imaginable, while dodging everything from land mines to armed bandits.
Much of the route — from Europe to Senegal in west Africa — is desolate. The 1982 race gained additional media attention when Margaret Thatcher’s son got lost for a week after his car broke down. Additionally, about two dozen competitors have died since the race began. This is arguably the most grueling annual off-road competition in the world.
Open to all riders — amateurs and professionals alike — competitors can race via car, motorcycle or truck. (Amateurs typically make up about eighty percent of the participants.)
Jan 5, 2008 was the official start date and this year’s event was canceled the day before: the first time the race has not been held since it began in 1979. This January will not be the same for off-road and adventure-riding moto enthusiasts.
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The 2009 and 2010 Dakar Rally were held in South America, and went through Argentina and Chile. It was the first time it took place outside of Europe and Africa and is scheduled to stay in South America for 2011.