Being the motorsport junkie that I am, the annual Dakar Rally is an annual high-octane oasis at this time of year when not much else is happening. And the nightly coverage on SBS is excellent.
I was excited last week to hear that Aussie rider Andy Caldecott had won a stage of this grueling event. I was shocked and saddened to hear about his death four days later. Death is undoubtedly a high price to pay for racing across the dusty tracks of the African desert, but the Dakar Rally is a dangerous event. As The Age reported , it has taken 23 lives in the last 28 years.
But is it the most dangerous sporting event in the world. Well according some analysis by crikey.com's sporting writer Thomas Hunter the short answer is "yes":
"There is no other single sporting event that can be relied upon to kill contestants with the same regularity as the Dakar Rally. But when you look at a list of the world's most deadly sports, driving at high speed across rocks and dust barely even rates a mention.
50 years ago, track-based motorsport would have gone close to winning the title of the world's most dangerous sport, in part because it also endangered the crowd. In the 1955 Le Mans 24 hour event, a car left the track killing around 80 spectators. But with every horrific crash, safety measures were improved to the point where you could say motorsport today is relatively safe, with apologies to Ayrton Senna.
Sailing takes lives each year, but not all of those who die are competing in a single race. Freak weather killed six people in the 1998 Sydney to Hobart, but that was tragedy on an unimaginable scale for the event. In the 54 year history of the event prior to 1998, only two other deaths had been recorded.
BASE jumping, heli-skiing, diving, mountaineering, big wave surfing and bull riding also contribute to the annual tally of deaths in sport, but none of them donate lives as generously as boxing, a sport that may be the world's premier Very Deadly Sport. According to the Journal of Combative Sport, world boxing recorded approximately 58 deaths from January 2004 to May 2005 alone.
A mortality rate that high certainly gives the anti-boxing movement a leg-up. Similarly, there are those who argue the human cost of the Dakar Rally should prohibit the running of that event as well."
While organisers are already talking about how next year's Rally will have the strictest safety measures yet, those changes won't be enough to change the already horrific legacy of the event. And it remains to be seen just how you can make such an event "safe", particularly for motorcyclists