Dakar Rally, will it ever return back?

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Each January starts with the famous endurance racing event Dakar Rally. Far from its roots, the event has been held in South America for several years now. It is becoming increasingly obvious that the event is in South America to stay.

Competed since 1979, the event was traditionally flagged off in Paris, France, and finished in Dakar, the Senegalese capital. Most competitive stages would be deep into Saharan deserts, though. In the 90’s the competition started  experimenting different routes, but in most cases the podium stayed in Dakar. Formerly known as Paris-Dakar rally, the name was later shortened to its current form “Dakar Rally”.

Former Dakar rally winner Jutta Kleinschmidt competing in 2006. Photo source: Wikipedia

But a bigger change was only ahead. The 2008 event was cancelled altogether due to security concerns. The next year a drastic decision was made to move the event to South America. It might have looked like a temporary solution, but this year, 2016, marks the 8th consecutive time the competition is held in South America. Yet the race has retained the “Dakar” name. It may be seen insensitive that the race organisers keep using “Dakar” name for their commercial purposes at same time when the majority of Dakar residents live in deep poverty. Even the Senegalese government has asked Dakar Rally organisers to drop the name.

Now that the South American race  is well established, the organisers have little reason to return the competition back to its roots. Furthermore, the security situation in Sahara has hardly improved this decade. While threats by al-Qaeda were valid reasons to move the race outside Africa, it also meant giving up in front of terrorism.

It can always be speculated if the event could be held in Africa again. Even if there were no more security issues in Saharan countries, it is now impossible to see that South American race would be ditched in favour of the traditional race. The South American “Dakar” rally has proven to be a great race in itself, and moving it elsewhere would be a shame. But could the two events coexist? Either holding both races each year, or alternating between them. As unlikely it seems today that the race would ever return “home”, the possibility should not be ruled out.





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