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Dakar 2017: Drivers, Riders Line Up in Paraguay For The World's Toughest Race

12x winner Peterhansel looks forward to the Dakar Rally starting January 2.

Reuters

Updated:January 3, 2017, 5:57 PM IST
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Dakar 2017: Drivers, Riders Line Up in Paraguay For The World's Toughest Race
A Team Peugeot TOTAL race car being prepared in the service area for the Dakar Rally 2017 in Asuncion, Paraguay (Image: Reuters)

The 83 cars, 146 bikes, 50 trucks, 37 quads and eight SSVs of the Dakar 2017 have now arrived in Asunción, the capital city of Paraguay. And it’s straight down to business for the teams ahead of their arduous two-week journey through South America.

Team Peugeot Total’s drivers Stéphane Peterhansel (FRA)/Jean-Paul Cottret (FRA), Cyril Despres (FRA)/David Castera (FRA), Sébastien Loeb (FRA)/Daniel Elena (MON) and Carlos Sainz (ESP)/Lucas Cruz (ESP) are focused on defending the title they brought back to France 12 months ago.

“I had a long trip from Switzerland to South America but to be here in Paraguay driving the PEUGEOT 3008 DKR feels perfect," says Peterhansel. "The rollout at the racetrack was good, it gave us the chance to check over the new brake discs. Now we’re ready to race.”

The noises coming out of Toyota Gazoo Racing’s corner are also promising. With Nasser Al-Attiyah (QAT)/Mathieu Baumel (FRA) now joining Giniel De Villiers (RSA)/Dirk von Zitzewitz (GER) the South African set-up are confident they have the drivers and cars they need to keep pace with the front of the race. A host of hopefuls are also looking to upset the odds including the MINIs of Kuba Przygoński (POL)/Tom Colsoul (BEL) and Mohamed Abu Issa (QAT)/Xavier Panseri (FRA). When it comes to the two-wheeled contest the Red Bull KTM Factory Team have been creating a buzz in Asunción in the build-up to Monday’s first stage.

Reigning champion Toby Price (AUS) has been his usual laid-back self while completing all the technical and administrative checks needed to be filed before taking the start-line. The Australian’s team-mates Matthias Walkner (AUT) and Sam Sunderland (GBR) get the chance to put previous Dakar disappointments behind them.

Hélder Rodrigues (POR) is back to ride his 11th Dakar and the Yamaha man has a proud record to defend in the bike race. Only once in his previous 10 rides has he finished outside the Top 10 and a third podium result remains within reach.

Dakar Rally 2017Sebastien Loeb of Team Peugeot Total is seen during the tests prior Rally Dakar 2017 in Asuncion, Paraguay (Image: Reuters)

When it comes to crowd favourites at the Dakar the blue trucks of Team Kamaz Master are always guaranteed a great reception. The Russian team are on a mission to secure their 7th Dakar win in South America and they send four trucks into battle. Drivers Ayrat Mardeev (2015 winner), Eduard Nikolaev (2013 winner), Dmitry Sotnikov and Anton Shibalov carry the responsibly of bringing home a winning result.

Looking to lead from the front in the quad race and recapture the title he won in 2015 is Ignacio Casale. The Chilean has also completed the Dakar by bike and truck but this time takes charge of a Raptor 700 Yamaha as he attempts to boss things in the quad contest.

Following Sunday’s podium ceremony the real business of racing starts on Monday with a 40km special stage taking place north of Asunción. It’s a small step into the 4,000km of timed racing that will need to be completed by any competitor wishing to cross the finish line in Buenos Aires in a fortnight’s time.

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