The Extreme Dakar Rally Is Tearing Up the Inca Empire

500 drivers in an extreme off-road race, and plenty of damage to historic sites

Best of Video - Dakar 2012

The Dakar Rally is an off-roading blitz of epic proportions, a Wacky Races endurance test of both drivers and machines. In the video above, a retrospective from the 2012 race, you'll see drivers take bikes, quads, cars and trucks careening through the rugged terrain of the Atacama Desert and other parts of the South American countryside.

With any event like this—a display of man and machine, tearing nature to pieces for their own amusement—there are bound to be critics. The arguments against the Dakar Rally, though, says the Guardian, are particularly compelling.

A study by the government's Council of National Monuments on the impact of an earlier race in 2011 revealed that the event affected 44.5% of the 283 protected historical sites that it evaluated.

It lists damage to geoglyphs, villages, cemeteries, middens and lithic or stone-tool workshops in the regions of Tarapacá, Antofagasta, Atacama and Coquimbo. Among the worst-affected archeological archaeological sites was a former fishing village in Coquimbo that may date from 2000BC, in which 50% of the area was degraded.

From 1978 to 2007 the Dakar Rally was held on a stretch from Paris, France to Dakar, Senegal. In 2008, amid terrorist threats, the race was canceled. In 2009 the Dakar Rally was reborn as a dash through South America. This year, the 14-day race through Argentina, Bolivia and Chile kicked off on January 5th and is set to end on the 18th.

The race organizers have taken some small steps to try to mitigate the damage to the region's historical sites, says the Guardian, “but such is the race's importance for tourism that it has once again been given the green light.”

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