After an explosion that may have been related to terrorism, severely injured a French driver in Saudi Arabia, France is considering the cancellation of the already-underway Dakar Rally. However, not everyone is on the same page.
The rally’s director, David Castera, insists the organization has no plans to cancel the 44th edition of the event.
On Friday, the French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drain said the possibility of canceling the rally was “still on the table”
The explosion – which happened on December 30th – left driver Sodicar Philippe Boutron with a “very serious leg injury.” Five other people inside the car escaped unharmed.
In a statement, the Sodicars teams said Boutron had been placed in a medically-induced coma at a hospital near Paris. The 61-year-old driver was initially treated at a military hospital in Saudi Arabia before being taken back to France.
French prosecutors have opened a terror probe into the incident, and Le Drain said it could not be ruled out the explosion was a terrorist attack. He added stopping the event would be a “prudent decision”
“We thought that perhaps it was better to suspend this sporting event, but the organizers thought not, but we have to be very prudent,” Le Drian said in an interview with BFM TV’s morning show.
Despite this, rally director Castera made it clear there are no plans to stop the rally at the moment, and security had been considerably reinforced to avoid any further incidents.
“We have put in place a lot of additional security measures in coordination with the Saudi authorities. You can see it in the bivouac, around the bivouac, at the start and finish of the special stage... all to maintain an optimal level of security, Castera said.
The race used to be staged from the French capital to the Senegalese capital Dakar. However, security threats along its route in North Africa meant that after 2009 to 2019 it was held in South America and in 2020 it started being held in Saudi Arabia.
In 2008, the 30th running of the race was canceled altogether at the last minute after four French tourists were beheaded by Al-Quaeda-linked terrorists.
France has warned its citizens in Saudi Arabia to exercise “maximum alertness – security risk” after the blast shook the ground.
France also says they have been the target of past “terrorist acts” in the area. In October 2020, a guard at the French consulate in Jeddah – where the explosion took place – was injured in a knife attack. Two weeks later, two people were injured in an attack on a gathering of foreign diplomats, including the French.
Right now, it seems that the organizers of the event are winning the war over the French government, and because of that Dakar’s final stage is scheduled to take place on January 14th.