Dakar

2023 Africa Eco Race postponed to 2024

3 Mins read
Credit: Africa Eco Race

The Africa Eco Race prides itself in following the original route of the Dakar Rally beginning in Europe and ending in Dakar, Senegal. However, amidst flooding in Dakar and concerns about other weather events, organisers have elected to postpone the 2023 edition from its 11–26 March slot to 30 December, meaning it will run through 14 January 2024. It is not clear if the new date will also take the place of a 2024 Eco Race.

Organisers cited heavy rain and resulting floods in Dakar, especially at the Lac Rose pink lake where the Eco Race finishes; the flooding throughout the city had resulted in multiple deaths in 2022. Concern was also due to the recently concluded Dakar Rally in its current home Saudi Arabia, where the first half was plagued by rain which caused an already difficult 2023 course to become even harder for competitors. Dakar officials had to make multiple scheduling changes to work around the situation such as shortening Stages #3 and #7 as well as cancelling Stage #7 for Bikes.

Weather had also impacted the 2022 Eco Race, though on the opposite end as racers had to contend with more extreme heat and dust storms.

“After several editions impacted by the Covid 19 pandemic, we did everything possible to go on the adventure again in March 2023,” reads a statement from organisers. “However, despite all our commitment, and in consultation with the Senegalese Federation of Motor Sports and Motorcycling, we have regretfully taken the decision to postpone the 15th edition of the AFRICA ECO RACE.

“Indeed, like other sporting events, the current climatic upheavals are forcing us to rethink and adapt our human activities. Other races have also been hit hard at the beginning of 2023, like the one that has just ended in Saudi Arabia in harsh and unsatisfactory conditions.

“The AFRICA ECO RACE is an adventure rally-raid that challenges athletes to go beyond their limits.

“As we are writing these lines, the mythical Lac Rose in Dakar, the finish line of our race, is in the grip of major flooding, with water levels rising by almost three meters on its banks. Mauritania and its wild landscapes, awaited by all on our event, is one of the most fragile territories due to the extreme events that occur there, such as the sandstorms or the extreme heat that we experienced during our 14th edition, in October 2022.

“Based on these observations. we have decided to postpone our event.

“As you know, the strength of the AFRICA ECO RACE is its resilience, its history but also its capacity to innovate. Thus, the 15th edition will return to its historical dates, and will start on December 30th 2023 to finish on the shores of the Lac Rose on January 14th 2024. The weather will be more clement, and less likely to cause extreme events. This edition will innovate, by allowing the greatest number of participants to follow in the footsteps of Thierry Sabine.

“True to itself, our race will retain its values of mutual aid, benevolence and friendship.

“We are counting on you, but above all, you can count on us.”

The Eco Race has undergone difficult times since the turn of the decade, with the 2020 and 2021 editions being cancelled due to COVID-19. Organisers have also had to deal with the political situation in Western Sahara, where control is disputed between the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic and Morocco; the SADR warned the race to not cross Western Saharan borders due to the ongoing war, though it has proceeded as planned. However, the 2022 AER was marred by tragedy when Bike rider Armindo Neves died of injuries sustained in a Stage #2 fall.

The new date means the Eco Race will come into direct conflict with the 2024 Dakar Rally as the latter is consistently held in the first two weeks of the new calendar year. Although neither race has a relationship with each other, the clash could present concerns for competitors who had planned to do both. The Eco Race also has a much smaller profile than the historic Dakar Rally despite the latter no longer racing through the location in its name.

Despite the AER’s worries about the weather in Dakar, it is set to be the finish line for the Intercontinental Rally on 4 February. Branding itself as the “Real Way to Dakar”, the Intercontinental Rally more closely follows the original Paris to Dakar route of the Dakar Rally, beginning with a pre-start in Paris on Thursday before racing commences in Morocco on 23 January.

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Justin is not an off-road racer, but he writes about it for The Checkered Flag.
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