It’s official: the next Dakar Rally will be staged in South America, Jan. 3 – 18, 2009.
Officials of the Amaury Sport Organisation, which owns the Dakar, said Monday the race will start and finish in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and will make a 9,000-km loop with Valparaiso, Chile, at the western end.
Race director Etienne Lavigne told the Associated Press in an interview from Buenos Aires that the route will include Patagonia, the Andes mountains, and the Atacama desert. The exact layout has yet to be determined, however.
Lavigne told AP that the rally could return to Africa if security concerns are managed. "It’s just a pause with Africa,” he said. The 2008 edition of the famous Dakar was cancelled at the last minute because of serious threats of terrorist attacks against the event in parts of Africa.
There had been rumours that the rally would be held this spring (also in South America), but they appear to be unfounded – there will not be a 2008 Dakar.
Organizers appear to feel that South America will provide a suitable location for the 2009 event, however, with the added bonus that CMG readers will be able to drive to the Dakar for the first time. Just head south, and don’t stop until you see the giant dust cloud.
From the Dakar website: "The organisers were seduced by the discovery of territories where navigation, sand, and crossings will be on the menu. Argentina and Chile gather all the ingredients for a fantastic Dakar both in terms of the level of the varied topography and the splendour of the landscapes or through its infrastructures."
And presumably a decreased likelihood of improvised explosive devices along the way.
The 500-odd disappointed entrants for the ’08 race will get first kick at registration for the 2009 event.