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Dakar Rally heading to South America for 2009 after terrorism canceled '08 race

PARIS -- The next Dakar Rally will zoom past the Andes, over
Argentine plains and through Chilean desert instead of racing
through African scrub and dunes.

Forced by the threat of terrorism to cancel this year's race,
organizers hope to give the Dakar Rally a new beginning by swapping
continents and going to South America in 2009.


Race director Etienne Lavigne detailed the route in a telephone
interview Monday. He was already in Buenos Aires, scouting out the
Argentine capital that will host the start and finish of next
year's race.


"It's a very, very big adventure," Lavigne said.


This year marked the first time that the 30-year-old rally, one
of the biggest competitions in automobile racing, was called off.
Next year will mark the first time that it will not race in Africa.


The race will start in Buenos Aires on Jan. 3 and finish in the
Argentine capital Jan. 18, organizers said


"Dakar competitors are going to discover new territory, new
scenery, but with the same sprit of competition and adventure, with
very hard stages," Lavigne said.


About 500 competitors signed up for the 2008 edition, which was
canceled in January after French government warnings about safety.


Lavigne said the race will return to Africa when it can. The
threat of a terrorist attack pushed the element of risk to levels
organizers deemed unacceptable this year. Eight of the 15 stages
were to have been in Mauritania, where al-Qaida-linked militants
killed a family of French tourists on Dec. 24.


"It's just a pause with Africa, because unfortunately the
security conditions aren't there," Lavigne said.


He said the welcome in South America has been "fabulous."


The 2009 edition will traverse 5,600 miles in Argentina and
Chile, with racing over nearly 3,700 miles in 15 days, with one
rest day.


The race will start in Buenos Aires, go to Patagonia, the Andes
mountains and venture into the Atacama desert, the world's driest,
Lavigne said. The exact route is still being worked out.