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Sports

Frenchman Sébastien Loeb eyes Dakar title

media Sébastien Loeb of France waves to spectators during a demonstration event in central Sofia July 4, 2010. Reuters/Stoyan Nenov

Rally racing drivers in South America are gearing up for the first motorsports event of 2016 - the Dakar Rally, with Frenchman Sébastien Loeb making a return to the World Rally Championship.

The nine-time world rally champion will be racing a Peugeot 2008 DKR, after having raced almost exclusively for Citroen.

He'll be looking to follow in the footsteps of Ari Vatanen - who won the Dakar in his first attempt in 1987, when the event was held in Senegal.

Leob, 41, admitted the 2016 rally would be a test of endurance. "The Dakar is very different from the type of racing I am concentrating on these days," he said.

"It will be very long, more than two weeks. And I will need endurance to manage the car over such a distance. It is another approach to racing. I will learn all about it in January."

An 11-kilometre prologue will kick off proceedings Friday in Buenos Aires. This year's race will be held in Argentina and Bolivia, after Peru earlier pulled out as one of the host countries, amid concerns over El Nino storms.

Two-time Dakar champion Nasser Al-Attiyah will start the race as the favourite. The Qatari, who won the 2015 edition with more than 35 minutes to spare, will be driving a Mini.

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