Tuesday, February 05, 2008

BULLETIN! DAKAR Central Europe & S. America

Baja Racing News.com

2008 DAKAR

The Central Europe Rally will take place from April 20 to 26 and was hastily organised to allow those who would have taken part in the Dakar Rally a chance to compete, said Etienne Lavigne, director of the Amaury Sport Organisation, the organiser of the Dakar Rally.

"The race was urgently organised... with the aim of offering Dakar Rally participants a chance to compete and to provide visibility for their sponsors at a big international competition," Lavigne told a press conference in Budapest.

The 3,000-kilometre (1,864-mile) rally will start in Budapest and head eastwards to the northern Romanian city of Sovata, before looping back to Hungary and finishing in the western town of Balatonfured, on the shores of Lake Balaton.

The rally includes some 1,500 kilometres of special competition stages, Lavigne said.

The Dakar Series was originally planned for 2009 but was brought forward after the 2008 Dakar Rally was canceled last month following the murder of four French tourists in Mauritania on December 24 of last year.

PARIS – The next Dakar Rally will zoom past the Andes, over Argentine plains and through Chilean desert instead of racing through African scrub and dunes. Forced by the threat of terrorism to cancel this year's race, organizers hope to give the Dakar Rally a new beginning by swapping continents and going to South America in 2009.

Race director Etienne Lavigne detailed the route in a telephone interview Monday. He was already in Buenos Aires, scouting out the Argentine capital that will host the start and finish of next year's race.

"It's a very, very big adventure," Lavigne said. This year marked the first time that the 30-year-old rally, one of the biggest competitions in automobile racing, was called off. Next year will mark the first time that it will not race in Africa. The race will start in Buenos Aires on Jan. 3 and finish in the Argentine capital Jan. 18, organizers said. "Dakar competitors are going to discover new territory, new scenery, but with the same sprit of competition and adventure, with very hard stages," Lavigne said.

About 500 competitors signed up for the 2008 edition, which was canceled in January after French government warnings about safety. Lavigne said the race will return to Africa when it can. The threat of a terrorist attack pushed the element of risk to levels organizers deemed unacceptable this year. Eight of the 15 stages were to have been in Mauritania, where al-Qaida-linked militants killed a family of French tourists on Dec. 24. "It's just a pause with Africa, because unfortunately the security conditions aren't there," Lavigne said. He said the welcome in South America has been "fabulous." The 2009 edition will traverse 5,600 miles in Argentina and Chile, with racing over nearly 3,700 miles in 15 days, with one rest day.

The race will start in Buenos Aires, go to Patagonia, the Andes mountains and venture into the Atacama desert, the world's driest, Lavigne said. The exact route is still being worked out.

LINK HERE: Chileans Offer Up South America as a venue

LINK HERE: 2008 Africa Cancel story Baja Racing news.com

Baja Racing News.com