Dakar Rally to be held in South America but "did not leave Africa"

Business Materials 12 February 2008 18:34 (UTC +04:00)

( dpa ) - As the Dakar Rally 2009 awaited to be presented Tuesday in Buenos Aires, the organizers insisted that its new South American route, through Argentina and Chile, coexists with the traditional competition's African identity.

"The Dakar Rally is going to South America but did not leave Africa," race director Etienne Lavigne said in a statement. "It has been forced to move away from its base, but its roots have not moved. Africa remains the centre of our worries."

Lavigne stressed that Dakar organizers envisage a global pilgrimage and that the rally "is going to cross other oceans and other continents in the future."

"Africa remains the main focus of our worries, but the Dakar's return to Africa will not be that of an unworthy son," the statement added.

According to the organization of the rally, conditions have to be right for it to return to its original base.

The prestigious rally was cancelled this year shortly before its beginning in Lisbon because of security concerns in Mauritania.

The rally across the deserts of north Africa had been due to start in Lisbon on January 5 and to finish in the Senagelese capital Dakar on January 20, with stages in Mauritania January 11-19.

However, it was cancelled - for the first time in the 30-year history of the rally - on January 4.

In 2009, the Dakar Rally is set to take place January 3-18, organizers have said.

It is planned to start and end in Buenos Aires, with a day off in the Chilean province of Valparaiso and with stages in Patagonia and in the Atacama Desert.

The start and finish of the competition were granted to Argentina for financial reasons. It was financially unfeasible to ship all the vehicles and equipment to Chile, either through the Magellan Straits or round Cape Horn.