Will the Dakar Rally Return to Africa?

2nd October 2019
The Dakar Rally had to abandon its origins due to Islamic terrorism, but it's been very well settled in Latin American territory since then. 

In 2008 the Dakar Rally crossed the Atlantic ocean to take place in Latin American land, due to it no longer being possible to carry out in Africa. Since then, people speculate about the possibility of the Dakar Rally going back to the continent that gave birth to it.

Will the toughest rally in the world set foot on African land again? Will it forever stay in Latin America?

The beginning

The Dakar Rally took place for the first time in the year 1979 after French motorcycle racer, Thierry Sabine, became lost in the African desert. Far from remembering that as a highly stressful experience, he decided that more motorcyclists should experience that feeling. That’s how he came up with the idea of creating a rally that crossed Africa, with the finish line at Senegal’s capital.

From its beginning, this rally is considered to be the toughest in the world, and that’s why the best racers and teams from all continents participated in its very first edition.

Dakar Rally anecdotes.

2008: a turning point for the Dakar Rally

Since 1979, the Dakar Rally had taken place for years in a row, but this changed in 2008. The situation in Africa became more and more unstable due to armed conflict. In the days prior to the 2008 edition, four French tourists were murdered in Mauritania and the French government recommended that people didn’t visit the country. As a result, the rally organization had to cancel that year’s edition.

This was a huge setback for the organization and for the rally’s participants. As the year progressed, terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda became more powerful in Africa, so it’s no longer safe for the rally to take place in this continent.

Pros and cons of Latin America as the rally host

Pros

  • Latin America’s landscapes are as beautiful as those in Africa. The Atacama desert has amazing dunes, there’s the pacific ocean, the jungle and green areas. Furthermore, when it comes to routes and toughness, Latin America meets all expectations.
  • Dedicated fanbase. In African editions, the racers could spend hours without seeing a single person, and this made it difficult to repair any breakdown. In Latin America, however, even in the most remote terrains, there are always fans ready to cheer them on or help the racers fix their motorcycles.
  • Better communication and safety. It’s now easier for teams to get around. The roads are better and the rally stages are more accessible. And most important of all, participants can feel safer in Latin American countries.
Bolivia's Dakar Rally sculpture.

Cons

  • High temperatures. This is the main inconvenience in the new Dakar Rally stage. The extreme heat can cause participants to become dizzy and dehydrated. In fact, this is one of the issues that might encourage the rally organizers to return to Africa.
  • Storms. In the last editions, several stages have been canceled. The days after a storm, racers had trouble getting around flooded areas. Also, in last year’s edition, there were several canceled stages, which made the tour shorter.

Will the Dakar rally return to Africa?

Every year there are rumors around Dakar Rally returning to Africa, more specifically in the South, due to safety reasons. Until today and thinking short-term, it seems that the Dakar Rally won’t be moving from Latin America. 

This continent has great landscapes to offer and a dedicated fanbase that’s present every mile of the way. Regardless of the country it takes place in, the Dakar Rally hasn’t lost its essence, and in the end, that’s the only thing that matters.