The Dakar Rally has a new man in charge.

Etienne Lavigne, who’s been the Dakar Rally’s director for the past 15 years, is stepping into a different job at the company, and David Castera is going to take over.

Castera is a very experienced rally raid veteran, with years of racing under his belt, including some decent finishes at the Dakar in the motorcycle category. Like many riders, he eventually switched over to the car category, and spent some time racing as Cyril Despres’ co-driver, winning the Silk Way Rally with him twice. In 2019, Castera was teamed up with the legendary Stephane Peterhansel, narrowly escaping serious injury when their car crashed at this year’s Dakar.

His racing savvy isn’t the only reason he’s a good fit for this role, though. Along with his years of racing, Castera also has years of experience in the organizational side of rally raid. He worked as sporting director for Dakar for years, and was instrumental in re-shaping the Morocco Rally when it was sold at the end of 2017. He served as director there; combine that with his previous experience inside the ASO organization (promoters of Dakar), and he’s a natural choice to replace Lavigne.

Castera’s new job won’t be easy, as there is considerable questioning about the Dakar Rally’s future. In 2019, the race ran entirely in the country of Peru. The pattern in the past few years has been to visit three or four South American countries, and before that, the race ran from France to Senegal, until threats of terrorism forced the organizers to change continents.

Since the race moved to South America, it’s changed considerably. In recent years,  fans and even some racers complained the race had evolved from a navigation challenge into a more wide-open blast through easier tracks, like a World Rally Championship event. As a result, there have been consistent calls for change, and with the loss of all but one host country for 2019, change is indeed inevitable. No wonder Lavigne is changing his position, and Castera is certainly going to have his work cut out, as some onlookers are wondering if the Dakar will even move back to North Africa in the near future.

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