Thousands lined the streets in the Argentinean capital Buenos Aires on Saturday to send off competitors in the 2011 Dakar Rally where KTM's factory riders will attempts to secure the Austrian brand's tenth title in the most prestigious rally on the motor sports calendar.
The KTM duo of titleholder Cyril Despres and Marc Coma, who together have won the rally the last five times lead the charge riding the newly developed KTM 450 Rally bike, which has been developed to conform to the new regulations that restrict the professional riders to a smaller, less powerful machine.
They compete this year in their own individual KTM motorcycle racing teams together with Ruben Faria and Juan Pedrero as their co-riders.
The opening ceremony, which included a ceremonial ride, departed from the city's famous Obelisk on Saturday with an increased number of entrants from previous years.
Riders then had a 377 km stretch of untimed ride from Buenos Aires to Victoria to settle into the bivouac for the first night ahead of Stage one on Sunday.
Cyril Despres says: "There was no special stage today, just 377 kilometers of liaison from Buenos Aires to Victoria. As always there were thousands and thousands of spectators to see us off - to say the Argentines like the Dakar would be something of an understatement- incredible!"
"Now we are at our first bivouac and time is pressing as tomorrow we have to get up at 3h30 to start the stage at 4h20! In total we have 566 km tomorrow, with 192 km of special, and after four days in the Argentinean capital I am more than ‘ready to race'. A very happy New Year to you all."
Sunday morning Marc Coma with bike number one will be first out of the start gate at first light as riders head for Cordoba for Stage One - 566 km on the road and a 192 km special timed section designed for the technically proficient over narrow tracks that will give riders a first taste of what to expect in the next 16 days.
The Dakar is the ultimate test of riding skill, physical and mental strength. It is also the most demanding of all competitions for the machines they ride.
The 2011 edition, the 33rd Dakar Rally, takes competitors through Argentina and over the Andes, up to the northern most tip of Chile, through the notorious Atacama Desert, the world's driest region then looping back through Argentina to finish again in Buenos Aires.
After passing through scrutineering yesterday Cyril Despres, along with Red Bull KTM teammate Ruban Faria and their two support vehicles, headed out of Buenos Aires cheered on by what the organizers estimated to be nearly 1 million spectators.