Amaury Sport Organisation (A.S.O.), official sanctioning body for the 2008 Euromilhoes Dakar, announced today that the 30th anniversary of the world's most challenging motorsports event would be canceled due to "direct threats launched directly against the race by terrorist organizations."
While the specific threats to competitors such as Petersen Motorsports were not made public, recent unrest in the region, including on the rally's planned course, have raised concerns for the safety of participants. Driver/owner Michael Petersen (Las Vegas, Nev., USA), Dakar Program Manager Dale White (Bozeman, MT, USA), Petersen Motorsports' Crew Chief Dennis Chizma, (Las Vegas, Nev.) and Lead Technician Nico Castellaccio (Tracy, Calif., USA) are safe and scheduled to return to the United States within the next two days. Members of the Petersen Motorsports/Wide Open Dakar collaboration are currently working to organize the return of all equipment and personnel to the United States.
Official activities for the team were set to begin with today's scrutineering/technical inspection of the No. 331 Petersen Motorsports/MMPIE/PAWS/Petersen Holdings/BF Goodrich Chevrolet. The team would have begun the 5,762 mile/9,273 km, 15 stage rally tomorrow, Saturday January 5, culminating in Dakar, Senegal on January 20. The first stage was set to take the second year team from Lisbon to Portimão, Portugal. They would have entered the African continent on January 7th.
Petersen Motorsports/White Lightning Racing has won nearly all the world's major motorsports endurance classics including the 24 Hours of Le Mans ('03 & '04), the Baja 500 and Baja 1000 overall ('95-'97), the 24 Hours At Daytona ('01), the 12 Hours of Sebring ('05) and the Petit Le Mans ('05 & '06). They have won over 50 off-road events and the American Le Mans Series GT2 Class Driver and IMSA Cup Championships ('05 and '06) and Team Championship ('05) on the shoulders of 10 American Le Mans Series class victories. As a rookie in the 2007 Dakar, Petersen earned an impressive finish of 23rd overall, fifth in the two-wheel drive class. He drove to a high stage finish of eighth-place in the final leg of the 6,906 km/4,291 mile journey from Lisbon, Portugal to Dakar, Senegal.
Michael Petersen, Owner/Driver: "As competitors we have not been made aware of the specific threats to the rally but nothing is more important than the safety of the guys on the team. If the A.S.O. decided that it was too dangerous to hold the race this year, then we know it must be the case. That doesn't help ease the disappointment or frustration. We are disappointed for the fans and supporters and our corporate partners. Everyone worked so hard to put this together. We overcame a lot of challenges to be here. We were scheduled to go through tech [technical inspection] today and do the first stage tomorrow. We were all excited and all ready to go. It was a shock to wake up to this. Right now, we are all still trying to digest everything that has happened here but safety is always the most important thing. The guys that make up this team are my friends. I have known some of them for over ten years. I share their disappointment but I'd rather see them disappointed that put in harms way."