A swell of racing enthusiasts descended on La Rural de Palermo in Buenos Aires last Saturday to salute the intrepid drivers of the 2011 Dakar Rally, a grueling test of endurance covering more than 9,500km in 15 days. One after another, the super-specialized vehicles—from hulking Russian trucks, to Baja motorcycles, to custom rally cars—rolled off the pampas and into BA to a hero’s welcome. Purple and blue smoke wafted overhead, confetti rained from the sky and a roar filled the air. NOWNESS sent photographer Juan Hitters to capture the event, which dates back to 1979, when motorcycle racer Thierry Sabine first plotted the course as a 10,000km straight shot from Paris to Dakar. The route through the dunes of the Sahara was a call to arms for adventurers, with the race catching on as a globetrotting counterpart to the Cannonball Run. In 2008 a terrorist threat forced its cancellation, and the rally was subsequently reborn in South America. This year, 572 vehicles set out from Buenos Aires on New Year’s Day, making their way up through Argentina, and over the Andes to the Peruvian border and the Pacific Ocean, before re-crossing the Andean chain and navigating home via San Juan. The competitors who successfully weathered the jungles, deserts and mountains en route included Vladimir Chagin of Russia, whose seventh victory in the truck division qualified him as the most successful driver in a single category in the event's history.