|What's the 'Paris-Dakar Rally' doing in Bolivia, of all places? Ask winner Toby Price (AUS).|
The Paris-Dakar Rally was moved from Africa to South America in 2009 but it is still called The Dakar Rally (or simply, Dakar). It is one of the toughest rallies in the world. The South American trail is also tough but does not reach the extremities in the Saharan desert. This year’s rally will start with a “prologue” in Buenos Aires in the Argentinian capital, on the 2nd of February, go through the length of the country and turn around in ,Uyuni, Bolivia on the 8th of January and take another route into Argentina where it will end in Vila Carlos Pas, Rosario, on January 16th. For cars, it will be a total of 9,583 gruelling kilometres.However, security challenges prompted leaving Africa altogether by 2009:
This rally is unique. It is a race of extreme endurance of man and machine, a modern day Odyssey. It is the ultimate physical and mental test of man (and woman). Since the start of the rally, 69 people have lost their lives as a direct result of the race. This is made up of 28 competitors and 41 non-competitors. The non-competitors who lost their lives include the race founder, Thierry Sabine, 14 news journalists and support crew, 4 spectators, 4 children, and 18 other unnamed spectators and bystanders. The most common cause of death is collision. But casualties have been few in recent years. Even so, Motorbike rider, Michal Hernik, was found dead in mysterious circumstances in the 2015 race.
By 2000, the rally started to contend with terrorists in the African desert. That year the participants were airlifted across some of the more dangerous routes. That year’s race ended in Cairo. 2001 saw a woman finishing top for the first time. Jutta Kleinschmidt from Germany won in a Mitsubishi. In 2006, the race started in Portugal for the first time. This was repeated in 2007.Critics will see the rally as a neo-imperialist relic since African participants have been next to none during the event's history. Ditto for African automakers. Still, the move to South America is a bit saddening insofar as it reflects the deteriorating security conditions in the Sahara. Mind you, this was before ISIS allegedly gained allies in the desert regions of Africa.
The 2008 race was cancelled after the murder of four French citizens and three Mauritanian soldiers in the days before the start of the race. The French Foreign Affairs Ministry advised its citizens not to travel to Mauritania since the country’s intelligence identified terrorist threats aimed at the rally. The following year, 2009, the race was moved to South America and Africa lost an important attention seeker to the continent. Africa’s loss became South America’s gain.