Buenos Aires – Santa Rosa
A long route will launch the 2009 Dakar Rally's South American itinerary: it begins with a first liaison of 196 kilometres to be followed by a timed 371km stage, and ends with a second liaison counting an additional 166km to cap off Day One.
waking up in Buenos Aires at 4am, the competitors will be quite happy to find their tents once they reach their Santa Maria campsite!
The opening stage will be an opportunity to discover the wide plains of la Pampa; in fact, Dakar participants have never begun the event upon such a long route. After nearly 400 kilometres of racing, possibly on the fastest stage of the rally, it will be quite a taster.
It will also be the occasion to settle any jet lag problems once and for all...
The opening stage will be fast, almost World Rally Championship-style fast, and the engines will have no qualms about showing off their horsepower.
While the KTM 690 Rally motorbikes of Cyril Després and Marc Coma will be fighting it out, the Volkswagen team's four Touareg 2s will be taking on the Mitsubishi clan's quartet of new Lancers. However, the BMW X3CCs will have their word to say if the reliability factor holds tight.
At Friday evening's ceremonial parade, a large enthusiastic crowd wished the best of luck to all involved in the race. 837 pioneers will inaugurate this year's Dakar (including 217 motorbikes, 25 quads, 177 crews and 81 trucks) as they foray across Argentina and Chile for the event's first visit to South America.