The Dakar Rally is regarded as one of the toughest motor sports events in the world, and an extreme test of strength and endurance for man and machine alike. For the third time, Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles will be providing a large fleet to support this supremely challenging event, with the latest products being tested under extreme conditions.

There’s a whole lot that’s new about the 2012 Dakar Rally. The start is no longer in the Argentinean capital of Buenos Aires, but in the resort town of Mar del Plata, about 500 kilometres further south. Unlike previous events, the rally caravan is not fighting its way twice across the continent back to Argentina, but is travelling from Chile northwards as far as Lima, the capital of Peru. And the team from Volkswagen, which swept to victory in the past three years, is not taking part this year. Instead, the Motor Sports Division has decided to concentrate fully on preparing for the scheduled entry in the 2013 Rally World Championship (with the Polo R WRC).

But some things haven’t changed. For the third time in succession, Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles are the official vehicle supplier to the Dakar Organization. As “Official Supplier“, 30 Amarok – including the new variants with automatic transmission and as SingleCab – and eight Multivan Panamericana units are being provided. And another newcomer in the support caravan is a Crafter 4MOTION with four-wheel drive, from Achleitner.

All the vehicles passed what is known as the Technical Acceptance test with flying colours. The emergency equipment specified (among other things, a satellite-supported emergency call system) was all carefully checked, and particular attention was paid to the vital safety equipment, especially in view of the difficult desert stages of the Rally. As a result, most of the Amarok are being allowed to follow the actual route of the Rally, and have accordingly been fitted with a roll-over cage, bucket seats, and a seat belt harness. And the teams have also won the battle of bureaucracy, about matters such as driving licences and health insurance.

Some 250,000 people followed the start in the Plaza Colon in the centre of Mar del Plata and the surrounding streets, and cheered the Rally participants and the accompanying support vehicles on their way. 178 motorcycles, 30 quads, 161 cars, and 74 trucks rolled over the start ramp.

Ahead there are some 9,000 kilometres waiting for the Dakar caravan. The route first leads clear across Argentina, then through the Pampas, then through the Andes, and over the 4,800 metres San Francisco Pass to Chile, where at half-time a rest day is scheduled for 8 January in the mining town of Copiapo.

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