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Dakar 2008: Sperrer and Scholtalbers very disappointed.

Although Dakar Rally director Etienne Lavigne has met with Mauritanian and French officials and obtained guarantees of increased security along this year's route, Lavigne announced today that the rallye was officially cancelled, stating "A.S.O.'s first responsibility is to guarantee the safety of everyone including that of the populations in the countries visited, of the amateur and professional competitors in the event, of the technical assistance personnel, and of the journalists, partners and rally collaborators. A.S.O. therefore reaffirms that the choice of security is not, has never been, and will never be a subject of compromise at the heart of the Dakar rally".

For Raphael Sperrer, the only Austrian competitor, with buggy no. 336, his Dutch Co-driver Harmen Scholtalbers, and the entire Team Fast & Speed like for all other competitors there is no other choice than returning home.

Raphael Sperrer: "I feel numb. The announcement of the cancellation of the 30th Dakar rallye is a disaster and for us all very disappointing, but safety of the participants is a priority. I respect the courageous decision of the ASO organisation . Indeed, no other decision but the cancellation of the sporting event could have been taken by A.S.O.

Their decision was taken after different exchanges with the French government - in particular the Ministry for Foreign Affairs. Based on their firm recommendations, the organisers of the Dakar have taken the decision to cancel the 2008 edition of the rally, scheduled from the 5th to the 20th of January between Lisbon and Senegal's capital. It is a serious decision based on the current international political tension and the murder of four French tourists on the 28th of December which was linked to a branch of Al-Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb, but also mainly because of the threats launched directly against the race by certain terrorist groups."

Raphael added: "It is certainly a first in the history of the Dakar rallye even if the long established competition has already paid a high toll on accidents and incidents over the years. As for me, this edition was supposed to be my third participation in the Dakar driving the "Fast and Speed" buggy nr 336; it would have been fantastic for me to have seen it become a good race for me and my codriver Harmen Scholtalbers as well as my team," said the Austrian driver. We worked so much during months of preparation with the team and my sponsors. I want to thank them for their assistance and trust. We could have made it really happen. Everything was ready.

Furthermore I was in top shape because of intensive training in difficult conditions. It will be extremely difficult to convert all this effort. But beyond our huge disappointment we must respect the decision of the ASO organizers. I am hugely frustrated, disappointed, and can already measure the economical consequences in terms of direct and indirect repercussions for my sponsors and partners. Beyond this situation we will continue to defend the major values of great sporting events and will carry on my sporting and racing engagement."

2008/01/04 | 15:44 CET | Editor: MR/HS/Sperrer

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