The big news is that Volkswagen is out of this year's rally which I am guessing is a business decision and not a competitive decision because they have dominated the race for years.
Among others displaced by the Volkswagen decision is last year's winner Nasser Al-Attiyah. He has joined up with Robbie Gordon's Hummer team for 2012. Last year I mentioned the extent to which the H3 appears to be the wrong vehicle for the Dakar's terrain of dunes and mountain roads. Obviously this is based on the performance turned in by Gordon year after year. It would be very funny if Al-Attiyah somehow won the race in the H3.
The coverage on NBCSports is starting out much better than last year. Last year they gave the studio host a lot of face time and had what amounted to a sideline reporter who did a segment every day on the town that the race was near or something like that and of course any time devoted to the studio host or the cultural segment was time not spent covering the racing and actually the racing not covered was my favorite class which is the big trucks (pictured above).
Speaking of the big trucks they've updated some of the vehicles and this Vladimir Chagin is not in the race. I think he won that last 30 Dakar's in a row (slight hyperbole) so someone new will have a shot.
The reason to post this is that the scenery is spectacular, similar to the Tour de France and the action is usually exciting, the race stages take hours but the show is 30 minutes and you have to figure they are not going to stuff the show with the boring parts. If you've never seen this before, I encourage you to try it.