Making its third start from South America, the 33rd Dakar Rally officially kicks off on New Year’s Day tomorrow in Buneos Aires. Making a quick trip to Victoria, Argentina (174 mils as the crow flies), the 2011 Dakar Rally competitors will have to contest with what is being considered a more difficult and technical course than last year’s route. In total there are 445 competitors (180 motorcycles, 140 cars, 67 trucks, & 32 ATVs) entering the race, but history tells us a smaller number will finish the course.
KTM’s Cyril Despres is favored in the motorcycle category, after winning the 2010 rally, but he will have to contend with fellow KTM rider Marc Coma and Francisco Lopez Contardo, whose Aprilia has been extensively improved upon over last year’s debut model, and could be a real contender this year in the Dakar. Of course rally purists will still lament the fact the race isn’t taking place in Africa, but the Dakar is getting back to its roots a bit, and has limited the use of global positioning satellites. Photos and video after the jump.