The Dakar Rally will return to Peru after a two-year absence next January, as the eighth edition of the race through South America also crosses through Argentina and Bolivia, organisers confirmed on Thursday.

The 2016 edition gets underway in Lima on January 3 and concludes in Rosario, Argentina on January 16, after a journey through Salta, on the foothills of the Andes.

The announcement comes days after Chile pulled out of the event because of major flood damage in the north of the country, which has hosted the race since 2008.

Chile and Argentina had been the two South American countries which have always hosted the rally since it pulled out of Africa because of security reasons.

“We had worked together on a scenario that involved Chile and Peru, Bolivia and Argentina,” race director Etienne Lavigne told AFP.

“Unfortunately, Chile experienced a few weeks ago in the Atacama region mudslides and water which enormously devastated infrastructure and resulted in a lot of tragedy.

“They were clearly unable to host us. By mutual agreement, we decided to take a break, in solidarity with them.”

The Atacama region, home to the world’s driest desert, and the neighbouring city of Antofagasta, some 800km north of the capital Santiago, were deluged by heavy rains on March 24 that swept away thousands of homes, leaving thick layers of muck and tens of thousands of devastated residents in their wake.

“Atacama was at the heart of the South American Dakar Rally, really spectacular, with dunes that are very different from those in Peru. Of course we regret this but the Chilean break is only a break.”

Lavigne said the 2016 edition, the route of which will be unveiled on November 18 in Paris would be “a cocktail with three stages .. extremely different from one country to another”.

Peru previously hosted the race in 2012 and 2013. – Agence France-Presse

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