KTM rider Cyril Despres was the 2007 winner of the Dakar Rally
Dakar Rally cancelled after Al Qaeda attack
04 January 2008 11:25
The 2008 Dakar Rally has been cancelled following the risk of a "direct terrorist threat".
Four French tourists were murdered in an Al Qaeda attack on December 24, 2007 in the African republic of Mauritania and there are now concerns over safety.
Nine of the rally stages were due to pass through the Mauritania area and the French Government officials have advised Dakar competitors to stay away from the area.
Rally organisers and competitors had said they were prepared to take the risk and race, but pressure to cancel the rally increased this morning (Friday) with the French Foreign Minister, Bernard Kouchner, saying: "We are warning them, it's dangerous.
"I hope that they have understood, but it's their business, they are a private organisation."
But now following meetings with the French Government the decision had been made to cancel the rally based on the current international political tension and the murder of the four French tourists.
An official statement from Dakar Rally organisers said: "Based on the current international political tension and the murder of four French tourists last 24th of December linked to a branch of Al-Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb, but also and mainly the direct threats launched directly against the race by terrorist organisations, no other decision but the cancellation of the sporting event could be taken by A.S.O (Dakar Rally organisers).
"A.S.O.’s first responsibility is to guarantee the safety of all: that of the populations in the countries visited, of the amateur and professional competitors, of the technical assistance personnel, of the journalists, partners and rally collaborators.
"A.S.O. therefore reaffirms that the choice of security is not, has never been and will never be a subject of compromise at the heart of the Dakar rally."
Clive Dredge, husband of competitor Patsy Quick and organiser of the Desert Rose team, speaking from the Dakar Rally Paddock said: "I am trying get the whole team together to get them back home.
"We will now be concentrating on the Baja 1000 rather than the North African rallies."
The 2008 Dakar Rally was due to start in Lisbon on Saturday.