Dakar Rally mainstay Chile withdraws to focus on disaster relief

Chile has withdrawn from its status as a regular host country for the Dakar Rally, stating the funds needed to stage the 2016 edition of the annual motorsport event would be better used to repair damage caused by flash floods that have hit the northern, desert region of the South American country.

Chile has played a key role in the Dakar Rally since its arrival on the continent in 2009 following a move from its traditional home in Africa owing to security concerns. The Dakar Rally has been held in the Atacama Desert, with regular stages at Copiapo, Iquique and Antofagasta, as well as the cities of Valparaiso and Santiago, which have respectively hosted events in 2013 and 2014.

However, the Chilean sports ministry said yesterday (Wednesday) it would not spend around $7m (€6.6m) to host legs of the three-week rally, with the money to be redirected towards rebuilding areas devastated by the flooding. The government is set to dedicate around $1.5bn towards rebuilding efforts and it, along with Dakar Rally organiser Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO), said they are working to return the event in 2017.

Dakar director Etienne Lavigne said: “We have carefully followed the situation and hope that despite these disasters, the region of the Atacama Desert and the cities that were affected regain their vigour. But the many reconnaissance trips that are necessary, in collaboration with the many Chilean administrative services, cannot be carried out according to the calendar we have planned.”

Chile’s Sports Minister, Natalia Riffo, added: “The country must adapt to the reality that our countrymen in the north are experiencing today. The government’s current priority is to help this region overcome and organise relief help. Then we will take another look at hosting the Dakar in 2017, as we have each year.”   

The route for the 2016 Dakar Rally will be revealed at a presentation event in Paris on April 16. Dakar 2015 took place from January 4-17 in Argentina, Chile and Bolivia. In January it was reported that ASO was keen to expand the 2016 edition of the event to Colombia, Ecuador and Peru.