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Last Updated: Saturday, 5 January 2008, 12:09 GMT
Disappointment as rally cancelled
Stephane Peterhansel celebrates his 2007 Dakar Rally victory
Stephane Peterhansel claimed victory in the Dakar Rally last year
A North Yorkshire contestant in the world-famous Dakar Rally has called the cancellation of the gruelling cross-African event a "disaster".

Duncan Tweedy, from Harrogate, said he had spent tens of thousands of pounds preparing for the race.

Organisers have scrapped the rally for the first time in its 30-year history due to terrorism fears.

They made the move after the murder of a French tourist family in Mauritania was blamed on Islamic militants.

Mr Tweedy, 44, the director of an interior design firm, said there was a despondent mood among competitors gathered in Portugal for Saturday's planned start.

Fearsome race

"I'm just a small fry here," he said. "There are teams here from all over the world - China, Russia - who've spent millions of pounds."

Mr Tweedy said the preparations for the 5,000-mile race had interrupted his Christmas and now it meant nothing.

He had decided to do the rally as a "one-off" a year ago and as an independent entrant on his KTM motorbike he was aiming just to finish.

The race, formerly known as the Paris-Dakar Rally, has a fearsome reputation, with competitors in cars, trucks and motorbikes having to cope with massive sand dunes, searingly hot days and freezing nights.

A number have died in the race and, famously, Baroness Thatcher's son Mark went missing during the 1982 event.

The race, organised by the France-based Amaury Sport Organisation had been due to start in Lisbon on Saturday and finish in Dakar, Senegal, on 20 January.

Eight of the stages had been set to take place in Mauritania.

Mr Tweedy said he was now trying to get a flight back to the UK from Portugal.

Safety concerns end Dakar Rally
04 Jan 08 |  Rallying

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