Despite its name it is an off-road endurance race, called a rally-raid rather than a conventional rally – the terrain the competitors traverse is much tougher and the vehicles used are true off-road vehicles rather than the modified on-road vehicles used in rallies. Most of the competitive special sections are off-road, crossing dunes, mud, camel grass, rocks and erg among others. The distances of each stage covered vary from short distances up to 800–900 kilometres (500–560 mi) per day.
The Dakar Rally (or simply "The Dakar"; formerly known as "The Paris–Dakar" or "Paris to Dakar Rally") is an annual Dakar Series rally raid type of off-road race, organized by the Amaury Sport Organisation. Most events since the inception in 1978 were from Paris, France, to Dakar, Senegal, but due to security threats in Mauritania, which led to the cancellation of the 2008 rally, the 2009 Dakar Rally was run in South America (Argentina and Chile). It was the first time the race took place outside of Europe and Africa. It has stayed in South America from 2009 to the present (2013). The race is open to amateur and professional entries. Amateurs typically make up about eighty percent of the participants.