In what must be a huge setback for the organizers of the Dakar Rally, the government of Peru has cancelled its participation in Dakar Rally events in 2015 and 2016 due to concerns about extreme weather conditions caused by El Niño.
Earlier this week Peru’s tourism ministry announced the decision, two weeks before the country was set to host the Inca Challenge, an off-road race starting in Lima and ending in the deserts of Ica. Peru has also cancelled its participation in the 2016 Dakar Rally.
The statement from Peru’s tourism ministry says in part: “Given the impact that the El Niño phenomenon may have in different areas of the country and, in anticipation of the effects on the population as a consequence, it has been decided to cancel our participation in the 2015 Dakar Series and 2016 Dakar Rally motor sport events,”
As a result, the upcoming Inca Challenge and the Dakar Rally scheduled for January will have to be rerouted to include only Argentina and Bolivia. This will be a major headache for the organizers of these events given how close we are to these events.
Weather experts have forecasted a strong El Niño starting this December. The Peruvian government has allocated $79 million for projects to help mitigate the damage of the weather phenomenon in which warm surface temperatures of the Pacific Ocean causes increased rainfall and anomaly ocean swells. It should be noted that extreme weather conditions caused by El Niño in the summer months at the end of 1997 and beginning of 1998 are estimated to have cost the Peruvian economy $3.5 billion. I suppose the Peruvian government has decided to use funds allocated for supporting the Dakar Rally to create a “rainy day” fund to deal with El Niño. Given the popularity of the Dakar Rally, I think that the Dakar Rally would have a positive effect on the Peru economy.