January 12, 2009 We once dubbed it the world’s most dangerous legally-sanctioned sporting event, but the ongoing Dakar Rally is almost certainly the most influential and relevant sporting event in a large proportion of the world. On the weekend Chile became the 26th country in which it has been staged and it won’t be the last. Since it began in 1979, it has run through Senegal (28 times), Mali (22), France (21), Mauritania (20), Nigeria (14), Morocco (12), Spain (12), Algeria (11), Burkina Faso (7), Libya (6), Guinée (6), Ivory Coast (3), Tunisia (2), Egypt (2), Tchad (2), Portugal (2), South Africa, Angola, Cameroun, Gabon, Congo, Namibia, Rep.Centrafricaine , and Sierra Leone. Argentina became the 25th country on January 6, when the event changed continents for the first time. Volkswagen Touaregs swept through Chile in 1-2-3 formation at the head of the field, while KTM did likewise in the bikes – no doubt enhancing their brand names massively in a populous and rapidly developing new continent.
The murder of four French citizens in Mauritania just prior to the start of the 2008 Dakar Rally caused the cancellation of the famous event and the decision was taken to seek new pastures for the race until the geopolitical situation allows it to return to Africa. Interestingly, the crowds in South America have been very large and very supportive of the event, and we wouldn’t mind betting that the Dakar event will find an equally appealing set of new roots in South America.
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The Dakar 2009 rally is currently being run for the first time on a new continent - South America - with more than 6,000 kilometres of special tests incorporated in a round trip that began in Buenos Aires on January 3, and will return there via Valparaiso (Chile) on January 18. After nine days of the event, the usual suspects have found their way to the lead with Carlos Sainz (VW) leading the event after superstar-in-waiting Qatari Nasser Al-Attiyah (BMW) got disqualified for missing waypoints. In the bikes, another Spaniard, Marc Coma, leads a KTM procession. You can follow the event on the event web site, but might we suggest you take in some of the television coverage – it really brings it home how tough the event is, and why the winningView gallery - 17 images