- Associated Press - Monday, January 22, 2018

CORDOBA, Argentina (AP) - Media helicopters buzzed over bikers at the starting line in Peru’s desert. The motorcyclists became almost invisible roaring across the dust bowls of Peru, while cars in the four-wheel competition plowed nose first into the sand as they flew over dunes.

Bolivian spectators waved their nation’s flag to cheer on bikers who kicked up dust racing through the sand after the race entered that nation. Vehicles left tracks along a beach and drivers crisscrossed muddy trails, kicking up spray. Spectators in Argentina stretched on their bellies on dune tops to get a bird’s eye view.

This year’s grueling Dakar Rally covered 9,000 kilometers (5,600 miles) and began on Peruvian sand dunes. Afterward the rally took to the highlands of Bolivia and then finished in Argentina.

Defending champion Sam Sunderland of KTM was forced to abandon the competition in the early going in Peru after the British rider crashed in the desert while leading the race.

KTM motorbike rider Matthias Walkner of Austria celebrated winning his category’s race in Cordoba, Argentina.

“This is a dream come true, I am so happy. This took a lot from me, but here we are,” Walkner said.

Some perhaps weren’t so happy. While in Peru, two drivers watched their vehicle go up in smoke after it overheated. And a duo piloting one Toyota stood on top of a dune, pointing in opposite directions as they argued over which way to go in crossing the desert.

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This gallery was edited by the Colombia-based Associated Press photographer Ricardo Mazalan, who covered this year’s race.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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