Dakar Rally gets underway in South AmericaJanuary 2nd, 2010 - 5:26 am ICT by IANS
Buenos Aires, Jan 2 (DPA) The Dakar Rally kicked off Friday in the Argentine capital with a total of 362 drivers taking part in what is considered the toughest road race in the world.
The riders took off from the famous Obelisk on Avenida 9 de Julio in central Buenos Aires in front of tens of thousands of spectators, with 134 cars, 52 trucks and 151 bikes and 25 quads competing.
Argentine quad rider Alejandro Patronelli led off the group for the symbolic 317-km first stage from Buenos Aires to Colon. The race officially begins Saturday and finishes after 14 stages back in the Argentine capital Jan 17.
In between, drivers will endure a 9,000-km trek across the mountains and deserts of Argentina and Chile, crossing the provinces of Buenos Aires, Cordoba, San Luis and San Juan before tackling the giant dunes of the Atacama Desert and travelling through La Pampa.
The 32nd edition of the race takes place in South America for the second straight year. The 2009 off-road endurance race was moved to Argentina and Chile from North Africa amid fears of terrorist attacks.
While Giniel de Villiers claimed Volkswagen’s first Dakar victory in a Touareg last year, the South African will be driving in a VW Amorak pick-up this time around.
Also competing in an Amorak for VW will be Carlos Sainz, who failed to finish while leading in 2009, and team newcomer Nasser Al Attiyah.
China will have its first official team in the race courtesy of the presence of carmaker Chery. Ningjun Lu, who has raced in Dakar five times, will lead the driver lineup with Jiang Yaoheng as the other driver.
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Tags: 9 de julio, amorak, argentine capital, atacama desert, buenos aires, carlos sainz, carmaker, chery, dakar rally, deserts, endurance race, giant dunes, giniel de villiers, la pampa, nasser, newcomer, north africa, obelisk, quads, spectators