The Dakar is probably the most challenging annual motorcycle rally raid for both competitors and motorcycles. This particularly applies to the motorcycles and their riders who not only require enormous riding and navigation skills but also superb physical and mental abilities.
Traditionally starting on Jan. 1, the Dakar race, which has been run annually since 1979, was originally from Paris to Dakar (Africa) in Senegal although over the years the route and starting and finishing points have often been adjusted.
In 2008, literally on the eve of the beginning of the Dakar Rally in Lisbon, Portugal, it was canceled after organizers received serious terrorist threats in Mauritania. The following year saw the first of the Dakar Rallies in South America.
Dakar 2011 will be the third consecutive year that the rally has started in Buenos Aires, Argentina, crossed the Andes into Chile, confronted the mighty Atacama Desert and then returned to Buenos Aires for the finish.
The South American have proved to be very popular with teams, riders and fans and provides spectacular and varied settings and landscapes for the motorcycle race.
Riders can cover 800-900 km (500-560 miles) per day, although some stages are shorter. The majority of the competitors are amateurs, many competing to fulfill a lifelong dream. The professional class has been in KTM hands since they first won it in 2001.
The KTM factory motorcycle riders Marc Coma and Cyril Despres are currently in the forefront of the professional class. Despres has won the rally three times and Coma has two titles. For the Dakar 2011, both compete in teams where they have selected their own co-rider.
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