Dakar Rally Motorcyclist Dies; What About the "Spectators?"

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago
dakar rally motorcyclist dies what about the spectators

Yes, it’s that time again. Time for the Paris – Dakar Rally (a.k.a. “the most dangerous race in the world”), where large trucks, cars and motorcycles drive as fast they possibly can across the African continent. Oops. Sorry. It’s the Dakar rally now, ’cause it’s taking place in South America, even though Dakar (Senegal) is, you know, in Africa. Last year, the race was cancelled due to “terrorist threats.” The fact that the race features a bunch of Europeans tear-assing across open territory– occasionally mowing down innocent bystanders (called “spectators” by race organizers)– might have a little something to do with it. About.com glibly reports that “A total of 48 deaths among competitors have been recorded since the rally began. Spectators have also been injured and killed either by competitors or their support vehicles.” In any case, the South American version has claimed its first victim: French motorcyclist Pascal Terry. The Canberra Times reports: “”Officially the result of the autopsy revealed that the French pilot Terry died of pulmonary edema… which produced cardio-respiratory failure,” Julio Acosta, chief of the department of operations of the La Pampa province police, said.” No word– yet– on any “spectator” ksi’s.

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  • Porschespeed Porschespeed on Jan 09, 2009

    yankinwaoz, As far as Baja goes, pretty much every year someone dies. Sometimes its a driver, more often it's a support person. Much of the risk at Baja comes from 'booby traps' which are placed by the locals. To be fair, most of the locals are just looking to up the intensity of the visual spectacle in their 'hood. But they don't build things terribly well, or they don't understand how it will work.

  • Don1967 Don1967 on Jan 09, 2009

    The drivers and spectators are all nuts as far as I'm concerned, but I do admire their willingness to risk death in the pursuit of what they love. At least they lived!

  • Qfrog Qfrog on Jan 09, 2009

    Dakar (can we still call it that?) is only a few baby steps away from what motorsport would be in mad max. The only way it could be more insane... if they raced in Mecha and were free to discharge any and all forms of weaponry upon fellow competitors. But for the time being Dakar is plenty dangerous. The truly sadistic enjoy a smattering of death with their motorsport, most settle for a helping of heightened suspense just before the sudden deceleration of vehicle/driver + immobile object coming to an agreement that the two can't occupy the same time/space. I'd vaguely define the Dakar's length as a continent. Ok it used to be... kinda. Road... competitors would interpret this term as... any surface upon which tires can gain traction. I think it is easier to herd cats than manage the "race" spectators. By spectators I mean everybody on the continent who may knowingly or unknowingly cross paths with a race vehicle.

  • Porschespeed Porschespeed on Jan 09, 2009

    qfrog, Mad Max? Really? Reviewing the history and after talking to someone I know who has done work for one of the teams involved, most deaths are still participants. Yes there are incidents of spectators being killed or injured. This IS tragic. But they were spectators. Do you know anyone who does not believe there is a risk standing 10 (or less) feet away from an active race course? Still trying to find an incident of someone who was not a spectator. There was a small child who ran away from her mother a few years back. She ran under a support truck returning from the race, that by witness accounts was going very slowly through a town. Very sad, but a standard traffic accident all the same. I am not a fan of death. But it is inherent to the world of motorsport. In any truly extreme test of man, especially when coupled with machine, some death is inevitable and sadly, unavoidable. The parameters of disorder are never clearly defined. It's racing.