The 40th edition of the Dakar Rally kicks off in Lima on Saturday, with the first of 14 stages running south from the Peruvian capital to Pisco on the country's south-west coast.
Thursday's sixth stage will see the move from Peru into Bolivia. On Jan. 15, the famed race enters Argentina, where it culminates in Cordoba five days later.
The 2018 Dakar Rally will be the final race involving Peugot, who are going for a third consecutive triumph in the cars category with Stephane Peterhansel and Jean-Paul Cottret.
Read on for full details of the upcoming race and a closer look at the route, along with scheduling and viewing information.
Race Dates: Jan. 6 until Jan. 20
Route: Fourteen stages between Lima, Peru, and Cordoba, Argentina. See the full route here.
TV Info: Eurosport (UK), NBC Sports (U.S.)
2018 marks the 10th consecutive year in which the Dakar Rally has been held in South America and the first time it has visited Peru since 2013.
Per Dakar, competitors will be faced with the daunting task of tackling Peru's desert dunes during the first six stages before the cross into Bolivia, where the rest day takes place in La Paz on Jan. 12.
Then the challenge changes, as the extreme altitude will become the racers' worst enemy. There are only three stages in Bolivia, but they have proved crucial in the past, as altitude can play havoc with fitness and mental strength.
The gruelling route covers 10,000 kilometres of uncompromising terrain, and 13-time winner Peterhansel has picked out the time spent at more than 3,000 metres above sea level as being potentially decisive, per Reuters (via Marca): "Once again, I can see the days we spend at high altitude being the key to this race. We have four or five days at extreme altitude, and this is never easy to manage."
Given the weather can be hugely changeable in Bolivia as well, the ability to adapt will be crucial during the middle section of this year's race.
Stage 9 sees the move from Bolivia into Argentina, which will be the backdrop for the final five stages.
The event's official Twitter account provided an indication of the scale of the event ahead of the start of the race:
DAKAR RALLY @dakar
Lima 🇵🇪 welcomed 540 vehicles that will participate in the #Dakar2018. Amazing, isn't it? Lima 🇵🇪 le dio la bienvenida a 540 vehículos que participarán en el #Dakar2018. Increíble, ¿verdad? #DakarPerú #Dakar40th #DakarRally https://t.co/obsUg2ekn42018-1-3 17:44:25
Competitors in quads, cars, trucks and UTVs and on bikes will attempt to navigate some of the most difficult off-road environments the globe has to offer.
Per Reuters (via Marca), two-time winner Nasser Al-Attiyah summed up the attitude of many going into the brutal but exhilarating event: "This will not be an easy race for anyone, but we are determined to enjoy ourselves and also try to go for the win."