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Dakar 2009: More than 500.000 at Start Buenos Aires

With 217 bikers, 25 quad riders, 177 car crews and 81 others in trucks, 837 pioneers in total on board 500 vehicles will take starter's orders tomorrow and get to grips with the route of the 31st Dakar, the first on the South American continent. For the moment, they have been enjoying their last day in the Argentine capital, where the city's inhabitants have been wishing them a good journey.

The day has been filled with the last recommendations, the last hours of rest and especially the last encouragements before taking on this imposing challenge. The riders and drivers of the 500 vehicles enrolled for the Dakar started their day with a grand meeting, the traditional pre-race "briefing", during which rally director Etienne Lavigne underlined certain points, with the emphasis on safety and the confidence he has in the competitors to honor and respect the two new host countries, Argentina and Chile.

Before getting to grips with the race itself, the vehicles will be warming up their engines around an initial loop that is to prove much easier than the rally that awaits them, with only a handful of miles to be covered. During this parade, the competitors will visit a part of the Buenos Aires city center, setting of from the La Rural exhibition park. Several obligatory ports of call have been selected for the parade: the Argentine Automobile Club, a national institution with 5000 races organized per year; Avenida 9 de Julio (9th July Avenue), which is claimed to be the widest in the world; and the famous Obelisk that dominates the Plaza de Republica (Republic Square).

In addition to a sunny saunter through the Argentine capital, the competitors can look forward to mingling with the huge crowds. After the 80,000 visitors who attended La Rural during scrutineering, 500,000 spectators were crammed along the route of the parade, a welcome encouragement and source of inspiration for the 14 stages to come: after today the competitors will have to affront 5,700 miles of roads and tracks.

2009/01/02 | 22:17 CET | Editor: MR/HS/ASO

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