In the Atacama

The world famous Dakar Rally returns to Chile next January

For seven days over 450 vehicles, ranging from motorbikes to trucks, will battle it out in the harsh conditions of Chile's northern desert regions.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011 Category: Sport
Chilean rider Francisco "Chaleco" López is one of the favorites for the bike category. Chilean rider Francisco "Chaleco" López is one of the favorites for the bike category.

The Dakar Rally is returning to the sands of Chile in 2012, with the convoy of vehicles set to spend seven days in the otherworldly landscape of the Atacama Desert, including a rest day in the mining city of Copiapó.

The 5,300 mile (8,500 km) endurance challenge kicks off in the Argentinean city of Mar del Plata and teams will complete the first five stages on the other side of the Andes, stopping in the cities of Santa Rosa de la Pampa, San Rafael, San Juan, Chilecito y Fiambalá.

On January 6, the convoy of 466 vehicles, including motorbikes, quadbikes, cars and trucks, will enter Chile through the San Francisco mountain pass, located 15,400 ft (4,700 m) above sea level.

The following day, teams will embark on the challenging “loop” section of the race, a 124 mile (200km) stage that circles around Copiapó, before stopping for the scheduled rest day on Sunday, January 8.

The second week of 2012 will begin with a special timed stage that will take competitors through the desert, to the bustling port city of Antofagasta. From there, the drivers will continue to make their way north, visiting the cities of Iquique and Arica.

The Chilean leg of the race ends on January 12 when the teams will cross over the country's northern border into Peru where they will stop at checkpoints in the cities of Arequipa, Nazca and Pisco before reaching the finishing line in Lima.

Race director Etienne Lavigne said the upcoming edition of the race will have more of a local flavor.

“South America is a passionate continent with impressive locations and a great variety of landscapes which we will be able to explore further in coming years,” he said.

Although the route for the 2013 edition of the rally is yet to be confirmed, race organizers stated that the race will finish in Chile's central zone.

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