Dakar Rally will be back next year, race organisers promise

Dakar Rally chiefs insisted on Saturday that the marathon race, cancelled for the first time in its colourful 30-year history because of terrorist threats, will survive and return in 2009.

Dakar Rally chiefs insisted on Saturday that the marathon race, cancelled for the first time in its colourful 30-year history because of terrorist threats, will survive and return in 2009.

But the gruelling event may have to find an alternative finishing point to the Senegalese capital to allow the event to avoid African terror hotspots.

"There will be a great event in 2009. We will start work on it from tomorrow. It could be another Dakar. It's a little complicated to imagine straightaway what will be The Dakar next year but we will work on it very quickly," said Etienne Lavigne, the rally director.

The 2008 Dakar Rally had been due to start in Lisbon on Saturday but the murder of four French tourists in Mauritania on December 24 led to the French government advising against any travel to the country. Eight of the rally's stages were due to pass through the northern African country en route south for Dakar and the scheduled finish on January 20.

It was the first time the rally had been cancelled since its creation in 1979.

Rally organisers and competitors were initially defiant, but the pressure increased early Friday with French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner adding his voice of warning. - Sapa-AFP

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