Among them for the first time were the two Ford Ranger cars of Lucio Alvarez / Ronnie Graue and Chris Visser / Japie Badenhorst.
As a stunt plane weaved through the skies overhead, Argentines Alvarez and Graue received a tumultuous reception from their fellow countrymen as they edged the Ranger onto the start podium in the shadow of the Monumento de la Bandera, built to commemorate the creation of the blue and white Argentine flag.
It is their fifth appearance at this legendary event but no less welcome were South Africans Visser and Badenhorst, who are taking on the Dakar challenge for the first time.
It was also a proud moment for Neil Woolridge and Scott Abraham, the team managers of the South African squad who have brought Ford into the Dakar for the first time, and the entire team of engineers, mechanics and support staff which gathered next to the podium.
Also taking the start was the Team Ford Racing MAN 4×4 race support truck crewed by Thomas Wallenwein, Sean Smith-Baillie and Gabriel Moiset.
The competition begins in earnest tomorrow when crews tackle the opening day of competition. After leaving Rosario, they face a monster 809 km opening leg, one of the longest of the event.
A 405 km liaison section skirting the city of Cordoba is followed by a 180 km off-road competitive special stage and another 224 km liaison before tired competitors arrive at the San Luis overnight bivouac.
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