07/01/2014 08:06 GMT | Updated 23/01/2014 10:53 GMT

Dakar Rally: Stunning Photos From South American Endurance Event (PHOTOS)

As the first major sporting event of the year, the Dakar Rally encapsulates everything there is about rallying - speed, endurance, skill, luck and stunning scenery.

Nearly 600 entrants on motorbikes, in cars and in trucks set off from Rosario in Argentina on 5 January for two weeks of gruelling driving across South American terrain. Just reaching the finish line in Valparasio in Chile on 18 January after 5,000km will be achievement enough.

See some of the competitors and scenes from the rally in the gallery below.

And for those with an interest in the action after the opening two stages, 11-time Dakar winner Stephane Peterhansel has taken an early lead in his X-raid MINI, ahead of Carlos Sainz in the SMG Buggy and the second X-raid MINI of Nasser Al-Attiyah.