Dakar 2012: The Madness Begins with Hooniverse Exclusive Pictures!

It’s been a New Years day tradition since as long as I can remember. The Dakar Rally, now taking place complete oceans away from Dakar proper, left Buenos Aires, Argentina on Sunday. The end game will be on the 15th in Lima, Peru, where we will see who has survived the struggles of Dakar 2012. Expect a full report of the race once everyone has safely arrived at the finish line. This year, Volkswagen (who have won the previous three Dakar rally), and Mitsubishi (who won the preceding five before that), are nowhere to be found. BMW group has also changed up their running by switching from the venerable and perennially close-but-no-cigar X5 racer for the new MINI Cooper Countryman CUV.

Bonus Hooniverse Contest after the jump!!

Nine-time winner Stephane Peterhansel has returned to give it another go. Peterhansel has not won since his days in Africa with Mitsubishi, though it is never wise to count him out, as he is always in the hunt near the end, and his factory MINI steed being among the fastest certainly doesn’t hurt his chances.

Displaced by Volkswagen AG pulling their factory backed Touareg racers after three successful years has left former winner Giniel De Villiers footing around South America in a privateer Toyota HiLux Pickup. De Villiers is determined to take another win, but he will certainly need luck on his side to finish the rally in the lead.  As they say, that’s why we run the race. Another perennial bridesmaid is Robby Gordon. Running his favored steed from the now-defunct Hummer brand, Gordon seems to always be “there, or thereabouts”, yet seems to be struck by poor luck time and time again. As one of only three teams of American genesis, and the only one with a shot at the overall title, I’m throwing all of my will his way. His podium position in the 2009 running has given him a sniff of the victory, now is his chance to take it all for himself (and co-driver Johnny Campbell). Fourth time’s the charm Robby! Go get ’em! As for motorbikes, NEVER EVER count out Cyril Despres or Marc Coma. Both are on Factory backed KTM mounts this year, and both are aiming to extend their victory tallies. Neither will give the other any leeway, and both are good enough to win it.  Keep an eye on this battle, it will prove to be a hot one. We will have pictures from the actual race soon. In the mean time, stay up to date with half hour specials on Versus network everyday from now until the end of the rally.  You can also read a blog style live feed on the Dakar webpage.

CONTEST!

As a bonus, leave your rally win predictions for the car class  in the comments below, and whoever gets the correct guess first will receive all of the cars and props (including, but not limited to a plastic cactus and a jar of craft sand. Purchase not necessary, only valid in the contiguous United States) used for the photos in this post. Good luck!

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