Unfortunately Al-Qaeda has struck another blow at automotive enthusiasts. Attacks on French tourists in Mauritania on December 28th 2007 has caused A.S.O. race officials, along with the French Government to cancel this years rally.
This marks the first time that the Dakar has been cancelled since the first Dakar in 1979. Mauritania was formerly a French colony, and the A.S.O. (Amaury Sport Organization, the same folks who put on the Tour de France) is a French organization. Since Al-Qaeda took claim for the attacks, that pretty much means that anything French is fair game to them.
The 2008 Dakar Rally would have started tomorrow, January 5th. And ran through the 20th.
Since 1979, the Dakar has served as an off road endurance race. Til 1995 the rally began in Paris, France and competitors would drive across much of the continent of Africa. Usually the total distance covered is right in the neighborhood of 9,000 KM. The rally is also open to both professional and amateur teams making the drive. Vehicle classes are divided up into three categories. Motorcycles, Cars and Trucks. And range from lightly modified production vehicles, to heavy duty prototype racing machines.
Lisbon, Friday the 4th of January 2008
After different exchanges with the French government - in particular the Ministry for Foreign Affairs - , and 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.
Based on the current international political tension and the murder of four French tourists last 28th of December linked to a branch of Al-Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb, but also and mainly the direct threats launched directly against the race by terrorist organisations, no other decision but the cancellation of the sporting event could be taken by A.S.O.
A.S.O.'s first responsibility is to guarantee the safety of all: that of the populations in the countries visited, of the amateur and professional competitors, of the technical assistance personnel, 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.
A.S.O. condemns the terrorist menace that annihilates a year of hard work, engagement and passion for all the participants and the different actors of the world's biggest off-road rally. Aware of the huge frustration, especially in Portugal, Morocco, Mauritania and Senegal, and beyond the general disappointment and the huge economical consequences in terms of direct and indirect repercussions for the countries visited, A.S.O. will continue to defend the major values of great sporting events and will carry on its engagement for a durable development through the Actions Dakar, started 5 years ago in sub-Saharan Africa with SOS Sahel International.
The Dakar is a symbol and nothing can destroy symbols. The cancellation of the 2008 edition does not endanger the future of the Dakar. To offer, for 2009 a new adventure to all the off-road rally passionate is a challenge that A.S.O. will take on in the months to come, faithful to its engagement and its passion for sports.