Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Add a circle of hell for the auto racers

People have long spoken out against the Paris-Dakar rally car race, but this may be the first time the Vatican has joined them. I don't usually agree with the Vatican and I won't make a habit out of it, but it's good to see it finally weighing in on the right side of something. The Vatican newspaper strongly condemned the rally Tuesday in an article called "Paris-Dakar: The Bloody Race of Irresponsibility."

The race is a curiosity for most Americans, but is, for some reason, considered a legitimate sport in Europe. We have a similar event, called the Baja 1000, where we tear up the closest foreign desert. But that's a Cannonball Run-style race of eccentric millionaires and other nutbags with a perverted sense of adventure.

The Paris-Dakar, on the other hand, is a race for "professionals" driving multi-million dollar prototypes from Europe and Japan's top car companies. The contestants, needless to say, are almost all Europeans (not counting South African Dirk von Zitzewitz). They race through some of the most impoverished communities on earth endangering anyone who might be crossing the "track" (i.e. the dirt road near their home) and sometimes wind up in horrific crashes that kill locals and competitors alike. If a prototype car crashes and the team is unable to repair it, they are under instructions to torch it, so as to prevent Malian villagers from taking note of the design and starting their own car company to rival BMW.

Some of the places that the rally course passes through are so forsaken by the press that even spelling their names is a challenge. Today's edition of the Guardian (UK) featured photos from "Mauretania," a mistake that appeared twice, including once in the headline, even though a map had the correct spelling.

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