Summer snow shuts down Dakar

2012-01-07 12:46

Copiapo, Chile - The Dakar Rally crossed the Andes into Chile Friday with a whimper rather than a roar as a controlled convoy frightened of the 4700m San Francisco Pass by snow and general bad weather.

Which was a good idea because a slide off the road would almost certainly have been fatal no matter how good your roll cage.

It meant the cancellation of Stage 6.

The organisers explained: "The border crossing between Argentina and Chile was over the Paso San Francisco that was closed to the public but specially opened for the rally caravan.”


Given that the Dakar originated in North Africa, it’s not surprising that this was the first time in three decades that a stage had been cancelled because of snow.

Race director Etienne Lavigne said: "This raises problems in sporting terms and frustrates the rally's riders and crews. However, this type of event is also part and parcel of life on the Dakar.”

The stage was intended to take participants from the Argentine town of Fiambala to Copiapo in Chile with a 247km special. As things turned out, all 641km was non-competitive.

Officials added: "Due to the bad weather continuing over the Andes Cordillera, the Chilean authorities were forced to close, for the night, the border at Paso de San Francisco.”

BAD SNOW STOPS PLAY: South Africa's Giniel De Villiers is greeted by waving Chilean flags as he and his Toyota arrive in Copiapo, Chile, on January 6, 2012 after travelling in convoy over the 4700m-high San Francisco pass from Argentina. Image: AFP

Snow had been falling for days on the mountain pass, unusual given that it is summer in the southern hemisphere. Rain had already led Dakar Rally authorities to delay and shorten Thursday's stage.

“To guarantee the security of the competitors and those following the rally, the organisers have decided to organise a convoy for all vehicles.”

The prestigious off-road endurance race was to pick up again today (Jan 7) in Copiapo.

After five stages through Argentina, Frenchman Stephane Peterhansel led the car section, followed by Pole Krzysztof Holowczyc. Frenchman Cyril Despres was at the top of the motorcycle standings ahead of defending champion Marc Coma of Spain.

The Dakar Rally is being held for the fourth consecutive year in South America. It took place in Africa from 1979-2007 but was moved to Argentina and Chile after fears of terrorist/bandit attacks in Mauritania led to the cancellation of the annual event in 2008.

A total of 469 vehicles - cars, motorcycle quads and trucks - set out from the Argentine seaside city of Mar del Plata on January 1. After 14 stages and more than 8000km, including more than 4000km of timed specials, the race is scheduled to end January 15 in Lima, the capital of Peru.

Bookmark Wheels24’s Dakar Rally section.
2012 Dakar image gallery.

  • jurie.weidemann - 2012-01-07 13:12

    umm - I'm no language EXPERT but don't you oFF the road when you land in a ditch instead of "of the road"?

      Les - 2012-01-08 14:44

      Thanks for your input, Jurie! Always appreciated. The typo has been corrected.

  • pages:
  • 1