Ceremonial Parade in Buenos Aires Launches Dakar 2011 in Buenos Aires

Thousands lined the streets in the Argentinean capital Buenos Aires on Saturday to send off competitors in the 2011 Dakar Rally where KTM's factory riders will attempts to secure the Austrian brand's tenth title in the most prestigious rally on the motor sports calendar.

The KTM duo of title holder Cyril Despres and Marc Coma, who together have won the rally the last five times lead the charge riding the newly developed KTM 450 Rally bike, which has been developed to conform to the new regulations that restrict the professional riders to a smaller, less powerful machine. They compete this year in their own individual teams together with Ruben Faria and Juan Pedrero as their co-riders.

The opening ceremony, which included a ceremonial ride, departed from the city's famous Obelisk on Saturday with an increased number of entrants from previous years. Southern hemisphere summer temperatures graced the parade as riders set out down the capital's broad Avenida 9 de Julio amid cheers from thousands of spectators who lined the road to send them on their way. The race has attracted a huge fan base in South America since it was moved from North Africa after the 2008 edition was canceled on the eve of the race following terrorist threats.

Riders then had a 377 km stretch of untimed ride from Buenos Aires to Victoria to settle into the bivouac for the first night ahead of Stage one on Sunday.

Sunday morning Marc Coma with bike number one will be first out of the start gate at first light as riders head for Cordoba for Stage One - 566 km on the road and a 192 km special timed section designed for the technically proficient over narrow tracks that will give riders a first taste of what to expect in the next 16 days. The Dakar is the ultimate test of riding skill, physical and mental strength. It is also the most demanding of all competitions for the machines they ride.

The 2011 edition, the 33rd Dakar Rally, takes competitors through Argentina and over the Andes, up to the northern most tip of Chile, through the notorious Atacama Desert, the world's driest region then looping back through Argentina to finish again in Buenos Aires.

Marc Coma greets the fans in Buenos Aires
Cyril Despres picks up his start number 2
Fans chase autographs from KTM riders