The Dakar rally was hit by more bad news earlier this month when the Chilean government voted against hosting the rally for 2017.
The Dakar rally was originally scheduled to run through Chile as part of the 2016 race, but the country’s government canceled that plan when it determined they needed to divert funds to disaster relief. Instead, Dakar organizers routed the rally through Peru, and that country also canceled the plan at the last minute, for much the same reasoning.
Organizers had hoped to once again run the race through Chile in 2017, particularly because of the country’s legendary dune systems. Towering sand dunes are a defining feature of the Dakar, and they’re not as easy to come by in South America as they were back when the race ran through the Sahara Desert.
With news that Chile is out, as well as Peru, organizers now have their back against the wall. Unless they want to run another Argentina-Bolivia race, they’re likely running out of options in South America — and that option doesn’t appeal to many people either. This news comes at a terrible time for the organization, as they’d built tremendous momentum with local fans in recent years. Losing them, along with all the lagging interest from international spectators who’ve been panning the race since it left Africa, would mean Dakar would once again have to start a rebuild program. Considering the rise of competitors like the Silkway rally, that might be a tough haul. Having the branding of the world’s most historic rally raid will only get you so far, if the racing product doesn’t back it up.