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Dakar Rally Drivers Rev Up for Planet's Most Dangerous Race

Drivers and motorcycle riders are making final preparations for the Dakar Rally, considered the most dangerous race on the planet.

The Dakar Rally starts Saturday with 378 drivers taking part in the second edition to be held in South America because of security concerns in Africa. The symbolic start of the race will be Friday in Argentina with a 349-kilometer drive from Buenos Aires to Colon.

Dunes, desert, mountains and other hostile environment will test the 138 cars, 161 motorbikes, 29 quads and 50 trucks in the 16-stage race that covers 9,030 kilometers across Argentina and Chile. The Dakar Rally ends January 6 in Buenos Aires.

Last year's winner, Ginield De Villiers of South Africa, leads the favorites. The 2009 champions in other categories also are competing, including Spanish motorbike rider Marc Coma, Czech quad driver Josef Machacek and Russian truck driver Firdaus Kabirov.

The rally was moved to South America in 2009 because of safety concerns and the possibility of a terrorist attack in Africa. The 2008 race was canceled after the deaths of four French tourists in Mauritania in December 2007.

The deaths were linked to al-Qaida.

It was the first time the rally had been suspended since the inaugural race in 1979. After the cancellation, organizers vowed to keep the rally alive by moving it to South America.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.