This past Saturday as the crowds gathered to watch the opening stages of the 2010 Dakar Rally, a transcontinental off road race being run across the Pampas of Argentine, across the Atacama Desert and over the Andes Mountains pushing both man and machine to their ultimate limits of concentration and endurance. Simply put, the Dakar makes Baja look like they are playing in a sandbox. The race was recently transplanted from the traditional Paris/Dakar route to South America after terrorist threats against the rally and its competitors and the second running looked like it would be off to a terrific start. However like any high speed rally that takes place on terrain where cars shouldn’t even be driving, the Dakar has claimed its fair share of lives over the past 31 years.
Unfortunately as German driver Mirco Schultis pushed his yellow and blue race truck around a corner along the opening stages of the race and lost control, the 28 year old spectator Natalia Sonia Gallardo lost her life as well. With long stretches of open circuit and nowhere nearly enough manpower to police every corner, just like the racers behind the wheel, onlookers will take that extra risk and sometimes wind up a little too close to the action. These unfortunate incidents are what eventually led to the end of Group B rally racing. Back when the only four wheel drive was a Quattro and the only thing larger then the wings were the turbochargers, drivers would begging for every ounce of power that their teams could deliver and the cars held up quite well. The problem derived from the hoards of camera wielding spectators willing to literally stare death in the face, waiting until the last possible moment to get out of the car’s that came by hanging their tails out a bit too far. Much like the tragic spectators of yesteryear, Gallardo was watching from a location that was deemed to be an unauthorized viewing area. We just hope that unfortunate news like this doesn’t spell the same fate for the Dakar.