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This is the single-news section of the news "Offroad & Motorsports". To see all news please use the link under the article or navigate with the left main-navigation.

Dakar 2008: Destroyed dreams and open questions.

Opinions about the cancellation of the Dakar 2008 cover a wide range from understandable to desaster. While a few usually bigger teams issue polite and politically correct statements of understanding and respect for the A.S.O.'s decision most of the Dakar participants are thrown into very personal fiascos by the current events.

Very roughly estimated the budget for a Dakar participantion that needs to be taken into consideration for a motorbike starts from 50.000 Euros and for a car including support at 200.000 Euros. A lot of the sponsorships for smaller and medium size teams have the passage included that the money will only be fully paid "when the participant successfully takes part in the start of the event". As the A.S.O. cancelled the Dakar before the start this condition is obviously not fulfilled. However, even in a legally safer situation for the participants it is questionable if the full support can be claimed from a hesitant sponsor without a value in return.

At Saturday noon most of the participants have left Lisbon with different destinations. Who is able to arrange a journey back home is on their way back. Some participants are heading for Portimao as their hotels are booked anyhow. Even more amazingly some racers left heading on their own wheels to Dakar. In their own private journey and without the help of the official organisation. A motorcycle team from Holland is planning to travel on their own "if the A.S.O. isn't able to do so".

Among these highly subjectively and emotion based activities on the other more rational side a lot of questions remain unanswered. The answers of Etienne Lavigne - Dakar race director - point in the direction that the "Dakar" as it is known and also what the name stands for will not take place again in 2009. "There will big a big event in 2009." was Lavigne's circumventive answer to the question if he could confirm that there will be a "Dakar 2009".

Completely not understood by most of the Rally participants is the reason for the total cancellation instead of fulfilling the promises given to racers, spectators, fans and sponsors by rearranging the event. Robby Gordon from Team Dakar USA spoke out of the heart of everyone when he asked "I understand that you cannot put peoples' lives at risk but obviously Portugal welcomes us and we don't have any problems here in Lisbon. Why not at least race here on the specials where it is safe. I mean - there is solutions and to cancel it is not a solution."

Etienne Lavigne's answer to the question why the race did not at least go into Marocco is leaving more questions than it answers. Lavigned stated "Because we organize great events and not fiascos. A course of 4 days in Africa is not our business".

The cancellation unquestionably is a desaster that in the way it was communicated and handled will scare participants away. The opinion of the general public is supporting this. In a web survey conducted by Eurosport "What is your opinion to the Dakar cancellation" the most selected point was "Where is plan B from the organization?" followed by "At least some stages should have been driven". The German news magazine "Der Spiegel" asked in its online edition "Do you support the cancellation so the Rallye Dakar will not take place in this year?" The winning answer with 65% was "No, the route of the rally should have been changed".

Speculations and rumors are spreading and are naturally trying to fill the void left by the current situation. One intense topic of discussion are theories that financial insurance issues were the main reason for the cancellation of the Dakar and also made it impossible to run a shorter route. In the meantime without knowing the deeper underlying reasons several credible sources known to confirmed these aspects. Speculations that the A.S.O. has bought the "Por las Pampas Rally" taking place in South America have been declared as incorrect by A.S.O. officials to on Saturday afternoon, "We closely looked into the Por las Pampas Rally over the last year but the rumors that we are buying it are not true".

In an interview aired on television Patrice Clerc, president of the A.S.O. (Amaury Sport Organization) said with a smile that the Dakar cancellation will not mean the death of the Dakar and will not have fatal financial impacts for the A.S.O.

A.S.O. customers and yearlong Dakar entrepreneurs such as Philippe Gache who constructed and prepared 9 race buggys for own customers will be quite unimpressed by this information. "I am ruined. I have 18 full time employees and my company in total pays more than 80.000 Euros wages per month. We have invested our ressources in the preparation of this Dakar. Even if there will be a Dakar in 2009 I will not be able participate any more." Gache even states more seriously "The A.S.O. people are crazy, they are gambling with our health. I have to think about dismissing my mechanics because my clients will want their investments back and I am not able to fulfill that."

Fact is that the total cancellation of the Dakar on short notice severely damaged the image of the A.S.O. and raises valid questions about the future of the destination Dakar and the rally itself that will need to be answered very soon. Already now participants are flocking away from the Dakar to join other major events like the "Transorientale Rally" in June 2008. Ronn Bailey has already confirmed his participation there and Andre Dessoude hopes his sponsors will join the move from the Dakar to the Transorientale.

2008/01/05 | 17:50 CET | Editor: MR/MR

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