Dakar Rally makes symbolic start in Buenos Aires
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina -- Thousands gathered at the Obelisk in the center of the Argentine capital to watch the symbolic start of the Dakar Rally, a 215-mile drive to the city of Colon on Friday.
The real racing on the 5,600-mile journey across Argentina and Chile begins on Saturday for more than 350 cars, motorbikes, quads and trucks, with the finish set for Jan. 16 back in Buenos Aires.
The rally was moved to South America in 2009 because of safety concerns and the possibility of a terrorist attack in Africa.
Organizers said Friday that 362 vehicles passed scrutineering -- 134 cars, 151 motorbikes, 25 quads and 52 trucks. However, the field was reduced by one after the bike of Argentina's Javier Pizzolito caught fire.
Last year's winner, Giniel De Villiers of South Africa, leads the favorites. The 2009 champions in other categories also return: Spanish motorcyclist Marc Coma, Czech quad driver Josef Machacek, and Russian truck driver Firdaus Kabirov.
Teams from Volkswagen and BMW are the favorites. Volkswagen boasts De Villiers, as well as former world rally champion Carlos Sainz from Spain and Qatar's Nasser Al-Attiyah.
BMW has French driver Stephane Peterhansel behind the wheel, a six-time champion on motorbikes and three-time winner in cars of the Dakar Rally in Africa, plus Nani Roma of Spain.
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press
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