Trio of champs heads for 'Dakar'
DEADLY DESERT RIVALS: Frenchman Cyril Despres (left) talks with Spain's Carlos Sainz (right) and Nasser Al-Attiyah of Qatar at a media event ahead of the 2013 Dakar Rally. Image: AFP
Author: Patrick Filleux
PARIS, France - The 34th 'Dakar' Rally - the fifth to be held in Latin America - will have a largely Pacific coast route ahead when it starts on January 5 2013 in the Peruvian capital of Lima.
it will end on January 20 in Santiago, Chile, race organiser Etienne Lavigne as announced.
The endurance race that originated in 1978 when it was run from Paris to Dakar in Senegal, West Africa, will involve 459 cars, trucks, motorcycles and quads and cover 8400km.
Frenchman Stephen Peterhansel will be defending his title in the auto category but faces a stiff challenge from former champions Nasser Al-Attiyah of Qatar and Spanish driver Carlos Sainz who won the race in 2011 and 2010 respectively.
The route will wind along the Pacific coast before two diversions into mainland Argentina and some rugged roads in the Andes; there will be 14 stages across the three countries.
Sainz, 50, who won the World Rally title in 1990 and 1992, is one of the main threats to Peterhansel's title, along with Attiyah who retired from the 2012 race with a spate of mechanical problems.
"His return gives me great pleasure but also constitutes an enormous threat to me," said the Frenchman, who will be chasing his 11th win (he's had six on four wheels and four on a motorcyle) in a BMW Mini. "This 2013 edition that has a confrontation between three former winners will give an exciting look to the race for the fans and will be very nerve-racking."
The motorcycle category will see the return of the Honda team, absent since 1992 but set to create again intense rivalry between defending champion Cyril Despres of France and Spaniard Marc Coma who have shared the previous seven titles and are the outright favourites.
The course will being for the first time on the desert sands south of Lima before gradually becoming more difficult as it enters Argentinia and a series of dangerous stages through valleys and canyons which will seriously challenge all competitors.
Lavigne warned: "It is far from a country drive along the sea between Lima and Santiago and the difficult sections sets up the race for a thrilling battle."
The race starters will include 189 motorcycles, 155 cars, 75 trucks and 40 quads.