BEATING THE NOT SO MINI CHALLENGE: Mini's Nani Roma (right) and co-driver Michel Perin pose after winning the 2014 Dakar Rally. Will rivals be able to trump dominant Mini at the 2015 Dakar? Image: Dakar.com
PARIS, France - The 37th edition of the Dakar, the seventh to be held on South American soil, will see a return of the loop format for the 2015 race with a course starting in Buenos Aires on January 4 and ending in the same city on January 17.
The 414 vehicles on the start list will tackle more than 9000km of roads, tracks and dunes in their quest through Argentina, Chile and Bolivia.
With the motorcycle and quad rest day scheduled for a different date, the race will continue day after day, perhaps to be decided in the marathon stages all vehicles will have to face in 2015.
RITE OF PASSAGE
It is no longer as much an event as a ritual.
Drivers and riders flock to the Dakar presentation conference to find out as much as they can about the course they will be facing in January 2015. It also sees the big teams open the media war.
It may look like a simple bivouac get-together but competitors are already keeping a watchful eye on one another.
The competitor deck has been thoroughly shuffled for 2015.
KTM's Marc Coma, the defending champion in the motorcycle category, will no longer have to ride with his "frenemy" but he faces stiff competition.
The Joan Barreda/Helder Rodrigues/Paolo Gonçalves trio makes Honda a credible threat, while Olivier Panis (third in 2014) has set his sights on loftier goals at Yamaha, joined by Juan Pedrero.
In the car category, Peugeot's Dakar comeback raises as many questions as it does expectations. Peugeot has put together a strong team but how far can the two-wheel drive 2008 DKR buggy go in its Dakar debut?
TAKING ON MINI
Stephane Peterhansel, Carlos Sainz and Cyril Despres have a combined total of 17 titles, but that means nothing unless they can see off the Mini challenge.
Mini X-Raid's constant improvements have made its car highly reliable and competitive, enabling it to claim seven of the nine podium spots available in the last three editions. The team will be banking on Nani Roma's ambition, as well as Nasser al-Attiyah, Krzysztof Holowczyc, Orlando Terranova and Guerlain Chicherit in a buggy, to extend its dominance.
South Africa's Giniel de Villiers, the only driver able to prevent a Mini whitewash on the podium since 2012, will once again seek to thwart their plans at the wheel of his South African-built Toyota Hilux.
Ignacio Casale, who won Chile its first Dakar title in the quad category in 2014, will also have his work cut out to see off challenges from Rafal Sonik, Sergio Lafuente and others.
In the truck category, Gerard de Rooy will want to make up for letting Karginov (Kamaz) win by a nose the previous January but will also have to reckon with Veka Man's surprise new recruit, Ales Loprais.
2015 Dakar route: Click on the image below
More Dakar news:
Dakar 2015: Le Havre rite of passage
Mrs Roma riding high in Dakar bike team
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