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For motorsports fans in the US, the winter is often a wasteland of interest, leaving us to look forward to warmer weather and the return of racing. However, there's a lighthouse that shines each year during the cold doldrums in the form of the Dakar Rally. Often broadcast in the wee hours of the morning, it gives the DVR-savvy a reprieve to watch motorcycles and trucks blasting through the desert while the snow falls outside at home.

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Peugeot is no stranger to dirt-oriented motorsports, but with the 2008 DKR, the French automaker is striking out in a different direction than the rally stages of Europe. Instead, it has placed aim squarely on the notorious Dakar Rally, arguably one of the most grueling, demanding and dangerous (and longest) races on the planet.

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The Mini All4 Racing team has dominated the Dakar Rally in recent years, with wins in 2012, 2013 and 2014. In this year's event, its drivers stood atop all three steps on the podium, and it had seven cars in the top ten. However, Mini's superiority is getting a big challenge in 2015 because Peugeot is returning to the rally with Red Bull as its sponsor. The team's weapon of choice is the new Peugeot 2008 DKR piloted by Dakar veterans Carlos Sainz and Cyril Despres.

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With Jay Leno off the Tonight Show, he has all the time in the world to focus on his passion for cars and can even travel a little. Leno teamed up with two-time Dakar Rally winner Nani Roma to jump and slide a Mini Countryman All4 racing truck around the dunes in Death Valley, CA.

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Motor racing is often overcome by dominant forces. In Formula One these days, it's all about Red Bull. Le Mans is absolutely dominated by Audi. Citroën devastated the World Rally Championship for years. And the Dakar Rally is no exception to that particular rule, either.

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The infamous Dakar Rally has claimed the life of another participant. 50-year-old Eric Palante of Belgium was killed while traversing the fifth stage of the cross-country race via motorcycle. Organizers grew concerned earlier Friday after he hadn't finished the leg, which most racers had completed on Thursday. They found his body on the course.

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It might not be a coincidence that there are rumors of Porsche revealing a safari version of the 911 at April's Beijing Motor Show, just as the Dakar Rally is about to begin. Adding fuel to the dusty desert fire is a just-released official video of Jeff Zwart driving the Porsche 953 that Jacky Ickx drove to victory in the 1984 edition of the race.

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If you've ever seen a Dacia up close, it'd probably strike you as one of the least likely vehicles to take racing. The Romanian-made vehicles (also sold as Renault models in certain markets) typically drive around a hundred horsepower to the front wheels through a five-speed gearbox and offer little more. Nor should they, really, because they're budget-oriented forms of transportation, but neither should they be taken racing. Or so you might assume, but apparently nobody has told that to the eng

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Avert your eyes now if you're jealous that the global version of the Ford Ranger is not offered in the US. Ford's midsize pickup is being tuned up to take on the 2014 Dakar Rally, and the result is a truck that is probably even cooler than any F-150 SVT Raptor we've ever seen in the States. Ford is actually building two versions of the truck for Dakar, which will run from January 5 through January 18, covering more than 5,000 miles from Argentina to Chile.

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French drivers Stéphane Peterhansel and Jean-Paul Cottret drove a Mini Countryman to a class win at this year's Dakar Rally, and to commemorate their win, Mini has introduced a limited-volume car that will only be sold in France. The Mini John Cooper Works Countryman ALL4 Dakar Winner 2013 might be a mouthful to say, but it's a fitting tribute to Peterhansel's eleventh Dakar win as this Countryman is painted to look like the rally car and only 11 will be sold in the Peterhansel's home cou

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The 2013 Dakar Rally has claimed another life. Organizers have confirmed 25-year-old motorcycle rider Thomas Bourgin died after colliding with an oncoming Chilean police vehicle while in transit to the start of a stage.

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Dakar Rally organizers report a support vehicle and two taxis were involved in an accident on January 9. The support vehicle collided head-on with a taxi carrying six people, while the second taxi, carrying four people, overturned several times in an attempt to avoid the accident. Seven people were injured and are now being treated in a hospital in Tacna, Peru, including three occupants of the support vehicle. Tragically, the driver and one passenger in the first taxi died of injuries sustained

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The Dakar Rally Raid is a spectacle unlike anything else in motorsports. With a course that tracks its way through some of the most unforgiving and forgotten areas in South America, the event is challenging enough for those who tackle the race on four wheels. The guys who make for the dunes on motorcycles, however, are simply our kind of insane.

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Honda has announced that it will take part in the 2013 Dakar Rally next January with a special motorcycle works team. It's been 23 years since Honda last took part in the rally, back when it took place in Europe and Africa and sailed under the Paris-Dakar banner. Between 1981 and 1989, Honda walked away with the gold five times, but hasn't so much as touched a grain of sand on the new course that spans from Peru through Chile and into Argentina. Team HRC is out to change that with its new four-r

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Bentley is an automaker not without its own racing pedigree, but the bulk of that is anchored in the 1920s and at Le Mans, to which it returned in winning form in the earlier part of the new millennium with the Speed 8. The latest development could, however, see the Flying B marque enter into another class of motorsport competition altogether.

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There's just no getting around the fact that, despite technological advances and a host of regulations aimed at improving safety, organized racing is a dangerous occupation. We saw it last year with the deaths of Dan Wheldon and Marco Simoncelli – pushing the limits on either two or four wheels is sometimes life threatening.

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Volkswagen may not be returning to the Dakar Rally next year as a competitor – having already proven everything it has to prove – but don't count on seeing a desert completely bereft of VW badges altogether. That's because the German automaker will still be providing the support vehicles that the race organizers couldn't do without.

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The Land Rover Evoque is headed to participate in the next running of the Dakar Rally with a few necessary modifications. The British Excite Rally Raid Team is planning to take to the sands of South America with three cars shelled in the body of an Evoque. Under the hood, however, the T3 racers will make use of BMW straight-six power. The 3.0-liter turbo-diesel engine is good for 275 horsepower and 479 pound-feet of torque with a ZF six-speed gearbox handling the shifting duties.

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Electric McRae Buggy – Click above to watch video after the jump

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