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Last Updated: Wednesday, 29 December, 2004, 13:32 GMT
Record entry set for Dakar Rally
Colin McRae in his Nissan on the Dakar Rally
McRae will be hoping for better luck in the 2005 Dakar Rally
A record number of competitors will contest the 2005 Dakar Rally which begins in Barcelona on Friday.

A total of 696 cars, motorbikes and trucks aim to complete the 9,000km race across five countries before ending in the Senegal capital on 16 January.

"It's the first time we've ever had to close the entry books so early," said race director Etienne Lavigne.

Among the competitors will be Britain's 1995 World Rally champion Colin McRae, who made his debut last year.

The Scot is relishing his second drive with the Nissan team.

McRae won two stages of the testing rally last year before technical problems left him stranded in the desert for two days.

But France's Stephane Peterhansel is favourite to defend his title in the four-wheeled category.

The six-time Dakar motorbike champion's 2004 victory for Mitsubishi saw him become only the second man in history to complete the double.

One of the event's most popular figures, Richard Sainct, will sadly be missing from the 2005 line-up.

The three-time motorbike champion died after an accident in September's Rally of the Pharoahs.

Sainct finished as runner-up to Spain's Nani Roma last year.

Contestants will journey over a shorter distance this time around - more than 2,000km has been trimmed from the route.

And in all 39 different nations will be represented in the marathon event, nearly double the number from two years ago.

'Tougher' route for Dakar drivers
17 Nov 04 |  Motorsport
McRae eyes Dakar return
19 Jan 04 |  Motorsport
Peterhansel wins Dakar Rally
18 Jan 04 |  Motorsport

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