The 33rd running of the Dakar Rally begans in Buenos Aires on New Year's Day, covering a looping 9,000 kilometers between Argentina and Chile in 16 days.
Designed to test both riders and machinery to the limits of endurance, the race loops through Argentina and Chile, covering a huge variety of terrain, including the Andes and the Atacama Desert, recognized as the driest place on the planet.
The 2011 Dakar Rally reached full registration in the bike and quad categories, four months ago promising to offer excitement for all participants and avid off-road race fans.
Pictured (above) Spain's Gerard Farres Guell kicks up sand with his Aprilia during the 4th stage of the Dakar 2010 between Fiambala, Argentina, and Copiapo, Chile on January 5, 2010. Spain's Marc Coma won the stage, France's David Casteu took the second place and France's Cyril Despres the third. (GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images.) See more pictures.
This Year's Course
This year, riders will go very close to Bolivia and reach the northern-most tip of Chile on the border of Peru. To increase the level of suspense, organizers have designed the route so that the more difficult stages are in the second half of the rally. Read full article.
Last year, 362 Teams began the race with 176 motorcycles and quad bikes, 134 cars, and 52 trucks. 187 Teams finished the race, including 88 bikes, 14 quads, 57 cars and 28 trucks.
Click the map for an enlarged view.
The 2008 Dakar rally was cancelled on the eve of the race due to terrorist threats in North Africa, and organizers decided to move the event to South America.
A limited 200 motorcycles and quads are allowed to start the race, in order to provide for the best possible management of the sporting event.
In the 33rd edition of the now famous race, the maximum engine size has been limited to 450cc. So racers like Cyril Despres and Marc Coma can no longer dominate the race on their 640+ cc KTM engines, but will instead be running on the new KTM 450s.
It will be a new era for the Austrian KTM motorcycle manufacturer with four factory-supported riders competing on the latest KTM 450 Rally enduro motorcycle. KTM will be attempting to capture the enduro title for the tenth consecutive time.
Spearheading the KTM attack are two Dakar trophy riders that are recognized as the world's finest exponents of the sport - French-born Cyril Despres and Spaniard Marc Coma.
In 2011 they lead two separate teams and their co-riders are Ruben Faria of Portugal and Juan Pedrero Garcia of Spain. All four riders will be onboard the brand new KTM 450 Rally bike, which has been designed by KTM's R & D Department in close cooperation with the KTM Racing Department with valuable input from the two key factory riders.
The KTM 450 Rally has been specifically developed for the Dakar in response to a rule change by the organizers in 2009, which limited the engine size down to 450 cc.
The new bike, unveiled to the general public at Milan's EICMA Motorcycle Show in November, first saw action in the Rally of Morocco in October 2010 when Cyril Despres won the title.
Riders can cover 800-900 km (500-560 miles) per day, although some stages are shorter. The majority of the competitors are amateurs, many competing to fulfill a lifelong dream. KTM is not only at the Dakar to support its own factory riders but also to give practical support to a large contingent of privateers.