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Rally will be back says director

  • Story Highlights
  • Organizers of the Dakar Rally say that it will be back in 2009
  • This year's event was called off because of terrorist threats
  • The organizers will make changes to the route
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LISBON, Portugal -- Dakar Rally organizers have insisted that the event will be back in 2009, after it was called off this weekend because of terrorist threats.

Eally director Lavigne has promised "a great event in 2009."

"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 Rally should have started 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 scrapped since its creation in 1979.

Portuguese officials were dismayed by the decision, which they estimate could cost them 15 million euros in lost revenue.

Joao Lagos, the head of the Portuguese organizing committee, insisted that they should have stood up to the terrorist threats.

"There are those who argue that the best method of thwarting, fighting terrorism is to stand up to it ... I totally agree," Lagos told the daily Diario de Noticias.

"Would similar threats have lead to the cancellation of the Olympic Games or the World Cup?" he asked.

Apart from the deaths of the four French tourists there have been concerns that an Al-Qaeda group is active in northern Africa and could target the high-profile race.

The Mauritanian government said the shooting of the French tourists and a separate attack on a military base that left three soldiers dead were isolated incidents and that claims of an Al-Qaeda plot had yet to be substantiated.

Niger, Algeria as well as the north of Mali had already been removed from the race calendar because of security risks.

The organizers are expected to devise a route which does not involve crossing deep into Saharan Africa.

"We are working on the hypotheses with sand and without sand," said Patrice Clerc, the director of the Amaury Sport Organization (ASO) which oversees the race.

Jean-Louis Schlesser, the winner in 1999 and 2000, believes that a new route might save the event.

In 2003, the Dakar started in Marseille and ended in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el Sheikh.

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