The Dakar Rally - a grueling, 9,000-kilometer trek through northern Africa - gets under way Friday with more than 700 cars, motorcycles and trucks leaving from Barcelona, Spain.
The field is 20 percent larger than last year and features competitors from 39 nations. Defending champion Stephane Peterhansel in a Mitsubishi and Scotland's 1995 world rally champion Colin McRae in a Nissan are in the field.
Security is a concern for this year's race, which winds from Spain through Morocco, Western Sahara, Mauritania, Mali and finally Senegal.
Police in Mauritania arrested a man with links to the al-Qaida terrorist group earlier this month. Authorities said the man had been in contact with al-Qaida in Saudi Arabia and was planning to attack Americans taking part in the rally.
The Dakar Rally covers 8,956 kilometers in 16 stages. The first stage Friday covers 50 kilometers with a six-kilometer special. The event ends in Dakar January 16.
Some information for this report provided by AFP and Reuters.