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Dakar is known as the most intense challenge both for man and machine. A dream of a lifetime for many, for whom just finishing the race feels like a victory. For others, the rally represents the top achievement of a sports career. But some worrying news and comments could be showing that something has started to undermine the status of this epic race...

The 40th edition of Dakar Rally is approaching quickly and we are again in a middle of a somewhat "silly season" when many things are said and written, based on rumours, either about changes in the teams, new cars, future of the rally, and so on. So, at this point in time, we should be prepared to read and hear news that would not turn into facts.
 
In the recent days, two very important news showed up in the media that fit what we've said before, and could mean real threat to the Dakar Rally, not directly of course, but this race has an extremely powerful media presence and depends on it to keep attracting attention over other similar events.
 
The first of this news is based on some comments made by Sebastien Loeb in an interview, where he raised the strong possibility of Peugeot quitting the race after the 2018 edition. Peugeot is maybe the strongest contender in the present times, with an outstanding line-up of drivers, including Peterhansel, Loeb, Sainz and Despres. All of them are top drivers, with an amazing set of skills, and the latest "incarnation" of 3008DKR is just fabulous, not only looks amazing, but also performs insanely well on all kinds of terrain – it is a real menace to the adversaries. All these makes Peugeot the team that captivates most attention, and helps to focus media attention on Dakar Rally.
 
The second news that showed up was the announcement about Robby Gordon offering his Gordini for sale.  Well, by its own, this decision doesn't mean anything special. But... until the real plans of the American are revealed, this could mean the end of Gordon's Dakar career. Gordon sold the Hummer to Yazeed Al-Rajhi a few years ago, and started to develop the Gordini, but now there is no information about him having any future plans with the Dakar.
Gordon had been attempting to win the Dakar for a long time, first in "American style", then he slowly tried to adapt himself to the rules and difficulties of Dakar, and to be honest, he really tried hard. Unfortunately for him, he never achieved the ultimate success he dreamt of, there was always some kind of glitch that prevented him from finally stepping on the highest step of the podium.
During all these years, Robby Gordon became the favourite of the fans, particularly in South America during the past years. But he started the trend back in the "good old African times": His car and his driving style did not leave anyone indifferent, and the countless moments when he made something to please the fans made him one of the brightest stars, even if he’s not a Dakar winner.
From a certain angle, the decision of selling the Gordini could mean that he doesn't have either the time or the will anymore for the demanding Dakar Rally, and decided to focus on his other racing activities, especially the SST - Super Stadium Trucks. Obviously, that would mean we have to miss him from Dakar Rally again.
 
Considering these two news, could it be possible for the Dakar to lose two of his most important media assets?  Surely the drivers of Peugeot will find their seats in other teams, but losing Peugeot as a team could be dramatic for the fans in France and in other parts of Europe. And losing Gordon for sure would be even more dramatic for the South American fans who are always waiting for him to pass, even if he is the last on the road, two weeks behind the leader. In North America, some people are talking about the "No-Robby effect", that is, how missing Gordon affects the interest in the rally.    
Of course, the rally is so much bigger than Gordon and Peugeot Team, and if the Dakar survived the drama of the cancelation back in 2008, it can survive almost anything else.  But ASO, the organiser of the rally should start to think about how to recover some of the ‘old magic’ this rally, avoiding wars and attracting people by the immense challenge the race still is. As for us, as of writing these lines, we still think Dakar is the most outstanding race in the world, no matter in Africa, South America or even Antarctica.
 
This ‘old magic’-thing is not just our thought, it seems like more and more drivers are missing something from the recent editions. Recently rumour has it, that Gerard De Rooy, who expressed his disappointment a number of times during and after the past few Dakar rallies, may not be at the starting line of the 40th anniversary edition. Since De Rooy is extremely popular and the rally-raid field in the Netherlands is very close-knit, if the rumour proves to be true, no one knows, how many other teams his decision will influence…
 
On the other hand, the ‘old magic’ we are talking about is already being recovered by someone, and that is not the Dakar organisation. Africa Eco Race has been replacing Dakar for a growing number of teams, and is trying to recover that ‘old magic’ we mentioned above with a slightly different approach. Starting in Europe and heading towards the Pink Lake in Senegal, this has become an attracting option for more and more teams, particularly those smaller ones that can't afford to go to South America. The rally has constantly been raising its profile, and by now it’s one of the major sporting events.
 
For the moment, Africa Eco Race, which is growing both in numbers and popularity, can't honestly be compared to Dakar Rally yet. The Dakar has a special status among fans and participants, and is the dream race of many, but with the issues like the possible retirement of Gordon and Peugeot, the distance between these two major events seem to be decreasing. And could Dakar afford it without risking becoming a regional event, with riders and drivers only from the Americas plus a few big teams while all the remaining return to Africa? ASO must do something about this, but in our opinion, they should avoid offensive steps at all costs, because those could be counterproductive. Maybe the changes should come in the form of not so restrictive regulations and with making entries less expensive.
 
Our deepest wish is that Robby Gordon keeps racing the Dakar, and that he’s going to amaze the South American fans with his traditional jumps over the starting podium many times more. And that Peugeot decides to continue racing with the amazing 3008DKR.  And that, in the end, the best could raise the winner’s trophy... regardless of driving Toyota, Mini, Buggy, Gordini, Peugeot or something else made with the sole purpose of tackling the hardest rally in the World.


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