Over 3000 miles, 10 stages, & a heckuva lot of sand – it can only be Dakar.

The 41st running of what many refer to as the world’s toughest off-road race has kicked off in Peru. Live tracking for all the teams can be found right here.

It’s been years, of course, since the Dakar has been held anywhere close to its namesake. The series decamped from Africa after the event went on hiatus in 2008, largely thanks to security concerns. For 2019, the route is 100% contained within the borders of Peru.

Teams treat the Dakar with an equal amount of reverence as road racers treat the 24 Hours of Le Mans or open-wheel competitors treat the Indy 500. While both of those races are tough, neither come within a shout of the Dakar in terms of length.

This year, Toyota Gazoo Racing South Africa team manager Glyn Hall has said they must capitalise on the opportunity to claim a milestone first win for the Japanese brand. Over the last couple of years, Toyota finished behind the dominant Peugeot brand. “This year we must achieve it,” said Hall.

They’re off to a good start: Toyota driver Nasser Al-Attiyah has not given his rivals a chance along the route of the first special and is currently ranked first. The Qatari racer has beaten Carlos Sainz by almost 2 minutes to be the first rally leader.

Can-Am is the defending side-by-side vehicle class champion. The Monster Energy Can-Am South Racing team drivers, shown below, include American Casey Currie and co-driver Rafael Tornabell. Today’s racing consists of a 247 km Liaison to the start of the first Special, an 84 km route in the dunes.

If anyone even considers questioning the toughness of competitors, take a look at this footage from Day 1.

Only nine more stages and a few thousand miles to go, Javier.

Be sure to check in here and on the event’s social media properties for continuing coverage throughout the race.

[images: Dakar/Can-Am]