The Dakar Rally

Those of you who've read the blog a long time know that I am married to a major motorsports fan. If it's got wheels and an engine, he's watching it. Well, maybe not the lawnmower races, but he totally would if there was nothing else on television.

I embraced this love of his. I follow Nascar and have a working knowledge of the wine and cheese racing known as F1, the World Rally and have watched the race at Pike's Peak. I've been to more than a couple of tracks, but have yet to be in the stands for a bonafide big time race. It is more than guys running around in circles, which is what I'd thought before we started dating. (I'd worked for an employer were all but two of us were fully consumed by Nascar Fever.)

His love of the sport(s) prompted me to go out and get a Direct TV before we moved in together. I lived so far out in the boonies at the time that the cable company's lines stopped a mile before my house. They'd string it out as far as my house at a cost of 50 bucks per pole. The population density just didn't justify the cost for them. Direct TV's launch coincided with our cohabitation plans-and the price tag was much more reasonable than paying for all that cable! (Our customer number with them was in the 50,000 range we were so on the cutting edge)

That summer, in addition to all the channels I'd been deprived of for four years (I'd had a cheesy NBC affiliate, a holy roller channel, the awesome Maryland Public Television, and a very snowy Fox affiliate which fed my 90210 fix), a channel of just motorsports, Speed Vision was launched.

The first month, they had no advertisers, so they played vintage automotive and gas station commercials from the 40's and 50's. The programming was nirvana for my gear head. I watched more than my share, learning a ton about racing, all forms of it.

That first January, I was introduced to a new race, The Dakar Rally. It was raced in Europe and Africa over many stages and days. The course, run predominantly through the Sahara, challenged man and machine. Drivers couldn't just be fast, they had to have a strategy. Drivers didn't have a pit crew trackside, so not only were challengers drivers, they were mechanics. It wasn't run at a track, so navigation skills were a must. The race started in a gleaming european metropolis and ended at a beach on the african shoreline.

Another feature was the participation of many categories of vehicles: trucks, race cars, SUVs, motorcycles and traditional rally cars. The motorcyclists? Major props from me, that's for sure. Talk about not feeling your ass! One of the top names was someone that Ed always cheered and peaked my attention, a German lass by the name of Jutta Kleinschmidt. You go, girl, I'd cheer. In our house, I think Ed looked forward to Christmas not only for the festivities, but because he knew that January was just around the corner and the Dakar was about to be run.

*One of the Winston Cup drivers I thought was a pompous hothead gained a lot of my respect when he started running this race. Robby Gordon ran, and well, in this event for many years. That first year, I think veterans probably looked down at him. In recent years, he was a respected challenger with a shot at winning.

The Dakar had bounced around on the broadcast channels in years past, the Deuce had it, Speed had it and I think on of the big three had it (at ungodly hours) one of those years. I didn't watch it as avidly as Ed, but it was cool to see man (or woman, as Jutta would prove) triumph over machine AND the elements. However, we'd seen NO commercials in December. Just as sure as the first Christmas ad will show up in October, motor sports broadcasting would begin to tease this event in November. If you've ever watched the Winston Cup/Nextel Cup awards banquet, you've surely seen ads.

However, this year was strange-no ads. Not a one. A few weeks ago, I was curious and I googled it. I'm sure Ed did the same thing, but it was very odd to see *nothing* promoting this rite of winter.

Ed tonight shared the news: There will be no Dakar this year. It has been cancelled.

A French family of four traveling in Mauritania was killed on Christmas Eve. Terrorists with ties to Al Qaida claimed responsibility. Then they went further to say that they would take out as many competitors of the Dakar and especially would be seeking out Robby Gordon and all American competitors. The organizers made the decision to cancel the Dakar for the safety of the participants and spectators.

It disturbs me that once again, terrorists have won. Sure, it was a race that I just watched highlights on television every year. The competitors have proven, year after year, they can conquer anything. This year, the terrorists said you can't conquer us.

It's a sad day.

Dakar Rally 1979-2008


Kaoscapt said…
Actually, I used to like watching the Sta-Bil Lawnmower Racing series that was on Speed, but I haven't seen it in years.

The last few years, the Dakar was on the Outdoor channel which meant I wouldn't have been able to watch it anyway since Verizon believes the Outdoor channel is a premium channel. That is if they were planning to carry it this year...

Hard to imagine January without the Dakar. I hope I don't have to get used to it.

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