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Dakar Rally Kicks Off Saturday

The 29th edition of the Dakar Rally starts Saturday in Lisbon, Portugal, with Mitsubishi and Volkswagen set to battle in the car division while KTM is expected to dominate the motorcycles.

This year's Rally covers 7,915 kilometers in Europe and Africa. Mitsubishi has won the title six years in a row. Frenchman Luc Alphand, a 41-year-old former downhill ski racer, is the Japanese team's lead driver.

However, Volkswagen has entered a prototype car with former world rally champion Carlos Sainz of Spain and Ari Vatanen of Finland and last year's runner-up of Giniel de Villiers of South Africa as drivers. Spain's Marc Coma will defend his title in the motorcycle division on a KTM.

This year a record 525 teams representing 42 nations are entered. The first stage features a 464-kilometer ride from Lisbon to Portimao in Portugal with 117 kilometers a special stage. The event moves from Portugal to Spain Sunday and will start its first African stage in Morocco Monday. The rally ends in Dakar, Senegal, January 21.

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