Death of the Dakar Rally? | Icon

We come not to bury the world's last, best adventure, but to praise it. Still, after nearly three uninterrupted decades of racing, the Dakar Rally may be beyond saving. Responding to the murder of four French tourists in Mauritania last Christmas Eve and threatened attacks from al-Qaida-linked terrorists, organizer ASO pulled the plug on this year's event. "The shock was brutal for all of us and the consequences heavy for most," said Rally Director Etienne Lavigne. "The terrorist threats that weighed on the security of the rally failed to leave the slightest choice for responsible organizers. There was no hesitation and there is now no regret."

Though there is talk the Dakar Rally may be run elsewhere-the Chilean government is interested-it won't be quite the same. The increasingly volatile political climate in northwest Africa will likely be the death knell for the greatest race in the world, at least on the sea of sand that defined it since 1979.

Drawing upward of 550 entries from 50 countries, there were 262 motorcycles, 205 cars and 100 trucks entered for the 2008 event, scheduled to cover 5762 miles of the world's least-friendly terrain between Lisbon, Portugal, and Dakar, Senegal, in 15 days. An international feed sends the stark beauty and sometimes-lethal drama to millions of television sets around the world. Having claimed 49 lives in 29 years, the rally has no respect for humanity or talent. After winning in '01 and '02, Italian legend Fabrizio Meoni- shown here on the #1 Team Gauloises KTM-died after crashing in Stage 11 of the '05 rally. His was the second fatality that year, one day after factory KTM rider Jose Manuel Perez of Spain succumbed to injuries sustained in a Stage 7 crash. The world shrinks with the loss of such giants. And if the Dakar Rally has left its last tracks across the Sahara, we'll all dream a little smaller.