In today's episode and season's finale (we hope): Peru saved Dakar from doom
The protagonists of our story gave us quite a ride in the past weeks, culminating with announcement of Dakar 2019 route last Friday where we got to know that only Peru will host the rally.
Let's make a short flashback: weeks ago, ASO presented Peru as host country and we were expecting to know what other countries would join. Chile, Bolivia and Ecuador showed up as the strongest contestants. Argentina, despite the efforts of many was ruled out long ago due to shortage of money.
Then, a few weeks ago, Chile asked for a reduction on the "fee" and got it, but in the end also decided to cancel their participation. When everybody was expecting a Dakar with Peru and Bolivia, the Bolivian government, in a surprise announcement said that they were also out. Ecuador was in a strange situation, with some officials saying that they were in but in the end they are out.
In the end, Peru became the safe ground for a race that otherwise would be doomed. In 2019, we will assist to a 10-day race across the Atacama Desert, that will surely be different, but easier we don't think so. And when you say "only" 10 days, against the normal 12, remember the first 4 stages of the 2018 edition in this location. And do not forget that many South American editions had many stages cancelled or stages that were just to move from one area to another, so in the end, maybe the total real racing days will not be so different or can even be higher when compared to recent editions.
2018 Dakar was labelled as "epic" and "unforgettable" due to the Peruvian stages – and back then the race spent only four days there, enough to spread carnage among the caravan, sparing no one, from favourites to amateurs, from the smallest bike to the biggest truck, all of them "enjoying" the benefits of this really gruelling desert. Many even felt relieved climbing to Bolivia bruised and exhausted.
The 2019 Dakar will not be so varied as it used to be since the move to South America, but Peru's challenge will be a big one, probably the biggest since Dakar left Africa. No more the WRC roads of Argentina, no more the heights of Bolivia and no more unexpected storms. Now there will be sand and more sand across the driest desert of the world.
And the new navigation rules will have a huge effect now. No more gizmos or map man to help finding out the right path in the desert. Now the participants really need to know how to find their way in the vastness like in the early times of Dakar in Africa.
The organisers also said that in Peru they can't have many long stages, and that their option will be for more technical stages, which also indicates that the difficulties will be bigger. It’s an old saying among the experienced competitors that the shorter the stage is, the harder the challenge you are to face… The good news is that apparently in several stages the liaisons will be short, something that is always good news as gives the teams more time to repair the vehicles and also allow the crews to rest and to prepare for the following stage better.
From our distant point of view, we have good expectations for the 2019 edition, it promises to be a real desert race and where the "human" factor will have a huge weight.
Dakar 2019 shows up now also as an opportunity for many participants to fulfil the dream of racing the hardest rally in the world. With less days racing and a simplified logistic, the cost or racing the Dakar will be significantly lower and the new option of rejoining the second part if forced to retire in the first one can make this edition one of the most attractive of the recent times, allowing many amateurs or teams with smaller budgets to finally race against the big names of cross-country rallies.
And what about the future?
Even if the 2019 edition is secured, what will follow in 2020? Chile said that it would want to host the rally again in 2020, Ecuador and Bolivia too, but the organisers are actively searching for new options in Africa, especially after this year's "horrible negotiation". Recently South Africa and Namibia were named, as was also Angola. In fact, the "Angolan" option is not new and showed up years ago. The South of the continent with these three countries could provide a good scenery for the rally with many new tracks to be discovered. And if Botswana joins in, then things can look even brighter.
In the northern portion of the continent, Algeria shows up as the strongest option, with negotiations already underway. But it is not yet known if the rally could cross to other countries. In this part of Africa, security issues still persist and event other rallies that are proud to be safe carry a robust security force to prevent robberies and terrorism. Then there is the "image" of the rally in some countries, that back in 2008 was not the best. And the last decade wasn't helpful for a necessary healing process and reconciliation, first because the problems weren't small, but also because from time to time some salt is dropped in the open wounds to prevent them to close.
Dakar have changed continent once already, and it was not the end of the rally. In fact, in the past it had many different routes, finishing in Paris, Cairo or Cape Town, and never in those times it felt like the end. Except for, of course, in 2008.
Now, another move could be close, back to Africa. The biggest losers will be undoubtedly the South American fans. Their huge love for motorsports was the biggest asset of South American Dakar and we are about to lose it. In Africa that has no match, not even close, and in fact, in some areas it even could be necessary to have tight security measures.
We will keep following the issue closely and letting you know about our thoughts. But for now, it looks like our "telenovela" finished its first season. The protagonist, the Dakar Rally ended up in the safe arms of Peru.
The Rally-Raid Network