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For the first time in the history of the world’s longest, most demanding, and most famous car race, the off-road Dakar Rally will pass through Bolivia. This January 5th, the legendary race will rev its engines as 41 quadbikes, 174 motorcycles, 71 trucks, and 150 cars prepare to tackle the most demanding terrain that Argentina, Bolivia, and Chile can offer.

The Dakar organization is marketing this year’s race as “made to measure”, as there will be separate routes for more than 40% of the race. This will allow the motorcycle and quad riders to confront narrower, more technical Dakar-7-360x250tracks. While the trucks and cars will continue directly from Argentina to Chile, The motorcycles and quadbikes will speed through the Bolivian regions of Oruro and Potosí on Jan 12th and 13th, enjoying an entirely new challenge in the history of the Dakar Rally- Uyuni Salar. Without the assistance of back-up teams, the riders will have to rely on other competitors for help making adjustments to their vehicles, making team strategies and equipment management vital.

With the cars and trucks in Chile and the bikes confronting the world’s largest salt flats, Dakar will be in two different countries at the same time for the first time in its history!

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“Dakar’s pass through Bolivia will be a true party,” indicated Dakar director Étienne Lavigne at a government-sponsored event in La Paz this week. “Thanks to all of you, we will write a new chapter in the fascinating book of Dakar…Dakar continues being the most extreme, hardest, longest race in the world, and doubtless the most beautiful of all,” he said.

Dakar_Rally_1It will all begin in Rosario Argentina on January 5th, and finish thirteen days later in La Serena, Chile. The riders will enter Bolivia on Sunday, January 12th, experiencing a visual shock as they are presented with a maze of tracks they must navigate through the colorful and mountainous region, passing stunning landscapes and small villages en route to Uyuni Salar. On this day, they must complete 782km, and by the time they reach the bivouac on the edge of the Salt Flat, they will have climbed to an altitude of 3,600m!

The following day, they must tackle 692km of Uyuni Salar, passing by several “islands” which are in fact the top of ancient volcanoes. Tunupa Volcano will provide a constant backdrop, and as January is part of the wet season, if the weather and luck permits, we might see the famed “heaven on earth” mirror effect!

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Bolivia’s President Evo Morales expressed his pleasure at that country’s inclusion and his wish that the competition’s next edition reach more regions of Bolivia. The Bolivian Government, which paid a franchise of 2 million dollars to be part of the 2014 competition, hopes that the iniciative will attract 100,000 tourists to the region.

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By Erik Rasmussen