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Dakar 2022: should we continue the race after the explosion that occurred before the start?

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The 2022 Dakar, contested in Saudi Arabia, was marked by an explosion which injured a French driver, Philippe Bourlon, before the start. An incident which could be the consequence of a terrorist attack. For editorialist Virginie Phulpin, the silence around this fact will not improve the image of the ordeal.

EDITORIAL

While Sébastien Loeb won the second stage of the Dakar race in Saudi Arabia on Monday, it is another French driver who commands attention. Philippe Bourlon was seriously injured before the start in what looks like an attack. And yet, the ordeal continues, which will not improve its image, believes columnist Virginie Phulpin in Europe Morning Tuesday.

The anti-terrorism prosecution opens an investigation

Serious incidents have often occurred in the history of the Dakar. The auto-motorcycle rally is not a risk-free exercise. But we’re talking about a suspected attack here, which is not exactly the same as an accident. The pilot Philippe Boutron was seriously injured in the legs during the explosion of the vehicle in which he was with five other people before the departure, in the city of Jeddah. He has been operated on several times, and today he is back in France, at the Clamart military hospital.

An investigation is underway by the race management and the Saudi authorities. On Tuesday evening, the national anti-terrorism prosecution also opened an investigation for attempted assassinations in connection with a terrorist enterprise. All the testimonies collected clearly show that an attack is suspected. There are strong suspicions, with an explosive device placed under the chassis of the 4X4. And yet, the rally goes on as if nothing had happened. A situation that challenges.

France and the French can be targets in Saudi Arabia. There have been recent examples of attacks, such as a little over a year ago in the same city of Jeddah when an explosive device attack was carried out during a ceremony organized by the Consul General of France. So who can say today that it cannot happen again during the race? Anybody.

The image of the Dakar once again degraded

The rally raid didn’t need that. Since leaving Africa, the Dakar has been less of a passion for the crowds, to say the least, even if it conquered a new audience during its years in Latin America from 2009 to 2019. Today hui, the fact that it takes place in Saudi Arabia has made some teeth cringe for two years now.

Behind the postcard landscapes, there is an authoritarian regime that does not respect human rights. The ASO, the organizer, does he really have a choice? No. Few countries are ready at this time to host a rally of this magnitude. Few countries have fertile ground for such a race as well. And after two years of the pandemic, ASO needs financially to support its trials.

All this, Saudi Arabia is one of the few that can offer it. At what price ? There, with this explosion, these suspicions of an attack, and the silence that surrounds the drama, we have perhaps crossed the line. Especially if the Dakar left Africa, it is precisely because, because of the presence of terrorist groups, the regions crossed were no longer safe enough for the pilots.

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