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Dakar 2008: Dessoude "Dakar in this way is unfortunately over"

The 30th edition of the Dakar was supposed to be a celebration of the most legendary of rally raid races. But the party was cut short in Lisbon yesterday morning, when the ASO, organiser of the event, announced that the 2008 edition had been cancelled. The event faced serious terrorist threats over part of its route through Africa. In order to avoid any incidents and to ensure the safety of all concerned, Etienne Lavigne, the rally boss, announced the difficult but courageous decision taken by ASO, to cancel the event. Stunned, like all those present, the members of the French Nissan-Team Dessoude felt real sadness and profound disappointment.

The announcement did not immediately sink in, either for the nine Team Dessoude crews or for André Dessoude. But a few hours after they had received the bad news, a deep feeling of disappointment settled over the team, and some serious questions were being raised.

For André Dessoude, the future of the sport is sombre: "If the safety of the event is under question, then the decision to cancel the event is wise. As far as I am concerned, it would be impossible to take 60 people to Africa with doubts about their safety. You cannot take that sort of risk with human lives. This late cancellation is regrettable, but the organisers undoubtedly had their reasons.

However, on the financial front, the problem will be difficult to manage. We will all go back to Saint-Lô and, in the workshop, there will be no work. For our clients, we can possibly move their budgets to other events, but this solution may not be possible. We will have to reconsider. Even if we are not responsible for what has happened, we will have to enter into discussions so that they understand the situation. On our side, we have already spent a lot on this rally, which we cannot reclaim, such as hotel bills or fuel which has been ordered and which we cannot cancel. The coming weeks will see some very difficult negotiations, in order to manage what has happened today.

The future of the Dakar in Africa appears to be compromised now. I think that the ASO will have to consider another destination, such as South America, for example. In my opinion, the days of leaving from Lisbon and arriving in Dakar, are unfortunately over!

We had never imagined such a situation. The cancellation of the rally fell so suddenly. The more we consider the situation, the more problems we can see, some of which will be very hard to resolve. My company employs 20 people; I will have to find a solution. I am not the only one in this situation. All the teams like mine will be facing serious problems. Despite the refunding of the entry fees, nothing will be solved on the financial level. I am worried for the future, both of teams like ours, and for this sport in general."

And, as well as the consequences for the competitors and teams, it should not be forgotten that the African countries will be the first to feel the loss of the event. For the last 30 years, and despite comments from those who disparage the event, the Dakar has allowed many to discover Africa, and has contributed greatly to its development as a tourist destination.

Thierry Sabine, the event’s founder, said its aim was "thrills for those who took part and dreams for those who stayed behind". But yesterday evening, we are all a long way from the dream.

2008/01/05 | 14:39 CET | Editor: MR/HS/Dessoude

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