Surprise Chile withdrawal forces Dakar 2019 rethink
The presentation of the route of the 2019 Dakar Rally scheduled for last Monday was postponed by organiser ASO after the last-minute withdrawal of Chile from the event.
Initial plans for the 41st edition of the Dakar included a new country - Ecuador - in a route that would cross the South American continent from south to north, incorporating Chile and Peru.
Conversations between ASO and various Latin American governments started after the end of the 2018 race from the end of January, with some preliminary talks having kicked off even earlier.
But the first setback was the decision of Marc Coma, sporting director for the last three editions, at the beginning of February not to continue in his position to undertake “personal projects".
Amid negotiations with the possible host countries, ASO had to start the search for a new sporting director, but as of now the role remains unfilled.
Dakar confirmed on social media that Peru will continue to be part of the event, although negotiations were delayed by the resignation of President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski at the end of March over a corruption scandal.
As of today, Peru is the only country officially confirmed for 2019.
The desire of the Dakar to return to Chile was made clear by race director Etienne Lavigne to Motorsport.com during the previous edition.
"We have invited Chileans from the new government to the Peruvian stages and also from Ecuador," he said then. "We have contacts with the future leaders of the Government of Chile.
"If we have Peru and Chile we can start to build a 2019 story and see how we can put things together. I would very much like to set up a start for the first time in Santiago and, if possible, a first stage in Valparaiso [a coastal city close to Santiago]."
The new Chilean government elected in November did not take office until March 11, which delayed talks.
But, against all odds, the Andean country announced last Sunday that it will not be on the route of the 2019 Dakar because of its "economic situation".
"Next year we will not be in the Dakar, hoping to return in 2020 with all the protection to our cultural heritage and environment”, stated the Minister of Sport of Chile, Pauline Kantor.
Thus, the Dakar had to cancel the presentation of the route planned for Monday and the conference for the press and competitors in Barcelona, which was to be held on Tuesday evening.
It marks the first time since 2009, the first year Dakar moved to South America, that organisers have failed to confirm the route for the following year's event by the end of April.
Bolivia, Argentina and Ecuador all remain possible countries along with the already-confirmed Peru for the 2019 route, despite the fact Bolivia had indicated it would not return next year.
Coma steps down from Dakar Rally role
Dakar 2019 to take place solely in Peru