Mar del Plata, Argentina - A colourful cavalcade of cars, motorbikes, quads and trucks will set off from this Atlantic resort on Sunday for the 33rd edition of the rally of dreams... the Dakar, still so called despite this being the fourth to be run in South America.Saturday was scheduled to see the symbolic start.No getting away from history - but also no forgetting that the former Paris-Dakar was scared out of the north African desert by a motley bunch of alleged terrorists. Bookmark our 2012 Dakar Rally section.Anyway, the 2012 Dakar promises to be as tough as any in the event's drama-laden history, tracing a route across the South American continent, over the Andes mountains and through the Atacama desert to the Pacific coast in the Peruvian capital, Lima.SHOOTING, TOOHeading the list of 466 adventurers are Nasser Al Attiyah, the Qatari driver crowned champion in 2011 after the heartache of disqualification in 2009 and missing out on victory to Carlos Sainz in 2010, and South Africa's own winner (in 2009) - Giniel de Villiers.Al Attiyah, also hoping to compete for his country in shooting in his third Olympic Games, in London in 2012, was almost facing the prospect of missing a defence of his hard-earned title when VW pulled the plug on its Dakar involvement but the versatile 41-year-old found a new home - driving a Hummer for Team Robby Gordon."The thought of not doing the Dakar almost made me sick but things eventually turned around," he said. "It's fantastic because it's a new challenge and I'm proud to represent Qatar."Al Attiyah is seeking to emulate Ari Vatanen (1990-1991/Peugeot-Citroen) by winning consecutive Dakars in different cars. Hummer's best performance so far was third in 2009.OUT FOR REVENGEUnlike Al Attiyah, Sainz was unable to find a replacement drive after VW quit but one name that jumps out among his rivals is Stephan Peterhansel. The French master holds the record of nine Dakar victories, six on a motorcycle and three on four wheels - the most recent in 2007.Al Attiyah is also up against South African Giniel De Villiers, who will be out for revenge after coming off second-best in 2011. And Marc Coma, the reigning Dakar motorcycle champion, is back to defend his crown and aim for what would be a fourth title after his wins in 2006 and 2009.The Spaniard's main rival once again will be France's three-times former champion Cyril Despres.At 71, France's Claudio Regunaschi will be the oldest competitor in this year's race; 20-year-old Argentine biker Lucas Bonetto will be the youngest.Amateurs, in keeping with the Indiana Jones-style spirit in which this iconic race is steeped, will make up 80% of the 2012 Dakar entry list.DAUNTING DESERTThis is the fourth Dakar to be staged on the "wrong" side of the Atlantic ocean since being uprooted from its habitual North African desert run due to "security concerns".The 2012 route will cover five stages in Argentina, five in Chile (where the crews and support vehicles will face the daunting, driest desert in the world, the Atacama) and four in Peru before finishing in Lima on January 15 after 4200km of special stages.The hardest day's racing awaiting the assorted collection of cars, motorcycles, quads (the toughest machines to ride on this ultra-marathon) and trucks is arguably the daunting 276km 12th stage, from Nasca to Pisco in Peru."From the time the rally enters Chile to its arrival in Lima we have seven or eight stages of pure desert, sand, dunes, with the stages in Peru promising to be exceptional," said race director Etienne Lavigne. Bookmark our 2012 Dakar Rally section.