Traditionally the Dakar Rally has been held in Africa, but because of the cancellation of last year’s race as a result of the threat of terrorist attacks, this year’s competition will run through Argentina and Chile instead. Infused with the same spirit of competition and adventure, drivers will navigate through 14 stages and 5,949 miles of challenging South American terrain.

The heavy hitters this year looks to be Mitsubishi versus Volkswagen with neither being the clear favorite. In the 2007 Dakar Rally, Volkswagen was very fast, but somewhat unreliable. They won the 2007 Dakar Central European Rally and hope to continue their winning streak into 2009.

Mitsubishi has been the dominant force in the desert in recent years and will be tough to beat as usual. They are the reining Dakar victors with their most recent Dakar win way back in 2007(the race was cancelled in 2008). Mitsubishi will be rolling out their brand new MXR09 Racing Lancer and interestingly they have swapped out their traditionally powered gasoline powered engine in favor of a diesel powerplant.

The 2008 Dakar Rally will commence on January 3rd, and run until January 18th.

Further event details can be found at the official Dakar Rally web site here.

Have a look at the video below for a preview of the route.

Click to see Video

…and here is a video of the new Mitsubishi Racing Lancer Dakar challenger.

Click to see Video