More than ten thousand people and 500 vehicles turned up on Monday in Buenos Aires, for the official launching of the 2009 Dakar Rally, which for the first time will be disputed outside Africa and takes off next January 3 from the Argentine capital covering 9.600 kilometres of Argentine and Chilean territory.
Argentina's cabinet chief Serigo Massa who headed the ceremony next to the organizer of the event Frenchman Ettiene Levine and other tourism authorities and diplomats, anticipated that the Argentina-Chile rally would be repeated in 2010, when Argentina and Chile celebrate their bicentenary. However Dakar Rally officials said the decision will be taken following the end of this year's edition next January 18 after the 800 pilots and 500 vehicles have completed the 14 legs of the competition that takes them over the Andes into Chile and back to the finishing line in Buenos Aires. The 500 vehicles include cars, motorcycles, four wheeled cycles and trucks and will be driving as far south as Puerto Madryn in Patagonia and to the Atacama Desert in northern Chile. A support caravan of another 300 vehicles plus 14 aircrafts and 10 helicopters will be monitoring the competition. The competing vehicles are valued in 43 million US dollars. "We've done a great job for this rally. We're already living the Dakar Argentina-Chile rally spirit", said organizer Etienne Lavigne is perfect Spanish. "This is the starting point of an Argentine dream, for what it means for tourism and for the 9.000 kilometres race", he added. The vehicles will be on exposition until the day before the launching January 3, at the grounds of Buenos Aires Rural, a huge expo complex, better known for the annual agriculture show. The first seven legs of the rally will take place in Argentina, followed by three in Chile and a one day rest in Valparaíso. Competitors will then cross back to Argentina, Catamarca, Cordoba and Santa Fe before reaching Buenos Aires. The course of each leg is secret and will only be revealed to pilots the day before. The rally which was cancelled in 2008 because of terrorist threats to the caravan in Mauritania will be aired every night to 170 countries with an estimated audience of 900 million people.