There is more to life in motorsport than just Formula 1, and at this time of year the attention turns to the Dakar Rally – the greatest automotive challenge left.

The 35th annual Dakar Rally kicked off on Sunday in the city of Rosario in Argentina, with a field of nearly 350 vehicles setting off for two weeks of adventure.

For the sixth year running the race is being held in South America and this year visits not only Argentina and Chile, but also Bolivia. The raid covers 3100 miles of some of the toughest terrain in the world and, as usual, the first three days thinned out the field in dramatic fashion with around 20 per cent of the competitors falling by the wayside, quite literally in some cases.

Notable among the retirements was Argentina's Marcos Patronelli, the leader in the Quad Bike class, who ran wide in a fast corner and had to leap to safety just before his Yamaha went over the edge into a 500-metre deep ravine.

The favourite to win the car class is France’s Stephane Peterhansel, driving one of the four Monster Energy-sponsored Minis, entered by Sven Quandt’s X-Raid organisation. Peterhansel, a five-time Dakar winner in cars (in addition to six wins on motorbikes), quickly moved to the front and was ahead of the Red Bull-sponsored SMG buggy of multiple World Rally Champion Carlos Sainz by almost half a minute after two days.