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Dakar starts - well, symbolilcally

2012-01-01 08:15

MAR DEL PLATA, Argentina - The 2012 Dakar Rally got off to a symbolic start on Saturday ahead of the 15-day race that will take competitors from Argentina through Chile to the finish in Lima, Peru.

This will be the fourth consecutive year that the event will be run in South America. After three years of racing on a loop course that started and ended in the Argentina capital, Buenos Aires, the 2012 race will start in this Atlantic coastal city and finish 9000km away on the Pacific coast in Peru.

'I'M COMFORTABLE...'

Saturday's processional ride did not count in the timed standings; with the first official leg from Mar del Plata to Santa Rosa will be today, New Year's Day.

Nasser Al-Attiyah of Qatar, who won the 2011 car category in a VW, is back this year but in a Hummer. Defending bike champion Marc Coma of Spain is back with KTM.

Al-Attiyah was one of the last drivers to sign up for the race and has had little time to get used to his new vehicle.

"I'm comfortable in the car," he saaid. "I'm getting the feel of it but I still have to get acquainted with it so will play things safe in the first stages and then step things up a notch every day."

His team mate will be American Robby Gordon.

The rally was held in Africa until 2007 but moved for security reasons to South America in 2009. The race was not held in 2008.

Bookmark our 2012 Dakar Rally section.

AP