Danger Of Dakar Rally Creates Debate As New Track Takes Toll On Participants
The Dakar Rally "brings action and drama, but also death," according to Adrián Michelena of CLARIN. Of 431 vehicles "participating this year, 202 have already been abandoned, which is almost double last year's total." There have been three deaths this year, "increasing the total in the last 35 years to 62." Of the 62 deaths, only 23 were drivers and the rest have been "assistants, spectators and journalists." The controversy, which has increased due to the "extremely harsh nature of this year's course," still exists. Is "such a difficult challenge worth the risk?" In previous editions of the Dakar Rally, 120 (27%) vehicles dropped out during the race in '11, with the number jumping to 138 (34%) in '12, then decreasing to 117 (26%) a year ago. Countries that host the event pay "significant quantities." Argentina and Chile spent €6M ($8.2M) this year, and Bolivia is hosting for the first time in exchange for €4M ($5.5M). The governments "do not view this as an expense because official numbers indicate a positive economic impact." To register in the competition, drivers have to pay €14,800 ($20, 200) (CLARIN, 1/13). MARCA reported former racers including former quads winner Pedregá met and said, "They've overdone it this year" regarding the difficulty of the course during the first week. Dakar Rally Race Dir Etienne Lavigne responded by saying, "It's a tough Dakar, like all Dakars. But we had very difficult and exceptional weather conditions." Course designer David Castera said, "We did not imagine it would be so hard. Things got a little complicated with the weather. That, coupled with a difficult terrain, was more problematic than we had thought" (MARCA, 1/12).
BOLIVIA PLEASED: On Sunday, the first Dakar stage ever held in Bolivia led the country's president, Evo Morales, to welcome the competitors for the race's seventh stage. The event attracted a crowd of 350,000 in Uyuni, a small town with a population of 16,000. Morales said that it was a "day of sport, a day of integration, a day on which the whole world looks towards Bolivia" (Dakar Rally).