Paris - The 2012 Dakar Rally is a coast-to-coast trek from the Argentine city of Mar del Plata on the Atlantic to the Peruvian capital Lima on the Pacific, organisers announced on Tuesday.
The 33rd Dakar Rally, which starts on 1 January, is the fourth to be held in South America, the two-week event having moved to the continent after the 2008 race was called off due to security issues.
Dakar director Etienne Lavigne said: "There will be five stages in Argentina, five more in Chile, and then four to finish with in Peru, making up 14 days of racing compared to 12 last year. With Peru and its fabled dunes added to the programme its going to be an extremely tough race that's awaiting competitors. There's a great variety of difficulties."
Up to now the route for motorsport's most gruelling of events in South America has begun and finished in Buenos Aires.
A total of 465 competitors have entered the 2012 Dakar, comprising 171 cars, 185 motorbikes, 76 trucks and 33 quad bikes. The route is 8 500km long with 4 200km made up of special stages.
Two of the toughest specials will be the 12th, a 246km drive from Arequipa to Nasca and the 13th (276km from Nasco to Pisco) across the dunes.
"It's the route which will determine the quality of this edition," commented Lavigne. "But it's obvious that we're looking to increase the level of sporting interest."
Spain's Marc Coma, who added the 2011 motorcycle title to his wins in 2006 and 2009, aims to add a fourth victory with France's three-time former winner Cyril Despres one of his main rivals.
Among the cars Stéphane Peterhansel, who has won the Dakar a record nine times (six bike and three car titles) will once again be one of the main favourites, along with Carlo Sainz and Giniel de Villiers of South Africa.
In all there are 50 nationalities represented in the starting list.
The 2012 Dakar is due to be screened to 190 countries with organisers hoping for an increase in the five million viewers who followed the action in 2011.
After the success of the rally in Argentina and Chile a host of countries including Brazil and Bolivia have applied to receive the event in 2013.
"We are studying the possibilities for 2013, we are ruling nothing out. The only thing that's certain is that the finish will be in central region of Chile," said Lavigne.
After 29 editions in Africa between 1979 and 2007 the Dakar switched continents in 2009.
The route for the January 1-15 2012 Dakar Rally, announced on Tuesday (specials):
1st stage - January 1
Mar Del Plata (ARG) - Santa Rosa de la Pampa (ARG) - (60km)
2nd stage - January 2
Santa Rosa de la Pampa (ARG) - San Rafael (ARG) - (295km motos/quads/trucks; 290km cars)
3rd stage - January 3
San Rafael (ARG) - San Juan (ARG) - (270km motos/quads; 208km autos/trucks)
4th stage - January 4
San Juan (ARG) - Chilecito (ARG) - (326km)
5th stage - January 5
Chilecito (ARG) - Fiambala (ARG) - (265km motos/quads - 177km cars/trucks)
6th stage - January 6
Fiambala (ARG) - Copiapo (CHI) - (247km)
7th stage - January 7
Copiapo (CHI) - Copiapo (CHI) - (444km)
Rest day - January 8
8th stage - January 9
Copiapo (CHI) - Antofagasta (CHI) - (477km)
9th stage - January 10
Antofagasta (CHI) - Iquique (CHI) - (557km)
10th stage - January 11
Iquique (CHI) - Arica (CHI) - (377km)
11th stage - January 12
Ariqua (CHI) - Arequipa (PER) - (538km motos/quads; 478km cars; 432km trucks)
12th stage - January 13
Arequipa (PER) - Nasca (PER) - (246km motos/quads; 246km cars/trucks)
13th stage - January 14
Nasca (PER) - Pisco (PER) - (276km)
14th stage - January 15
Pisco (PER) - Lima (PER) - (29km)