CORDOBA, Argentina (AP) — Media helicopters buzzed over bikers at the starting line in Peru's desert. The motorcyclists became almost invisible roaring across the dust bowls of Peru, while cars in the four-wheel competition plowed nose first into the sand as they flew over dunes.

Bolivian spectators waved their nation's flag to cheer on bikers who kicked up dust racing through the sand after the race entered that nation. Vehicles left tracks along a beach and drivers crisscrossed muddy trails, kicking up spray. Spectators in Argentina stretched on their bellies on dune tops to get a bird's eye view.

In this Saturday, Jan. 6, 2018 photo, a Mitsubishi car, front, driven by Cristina Gutierrez Herrero and Gabriel Moiset Ferrer, both from Spain, turns over during the first stage of the Dakar Rally between Lima and Pisco, Peru. (AP Photo/Ricardo Mazalan)

This year's grueling Dakar Rally covered 9,000 kilometers (5,600 miles) and began on Peruvian sand dunes. Afterward the rally took to the highlands of Bolivia and then finished in Argentina.

Defending champion Sam Sunderland of KTM was forced to abandon the competition in the early going in Peru after the British rider crashed in the desert while leading the race.

In this Monday, Jan. 8, 2018 photo, smoke rises from overheated Toyota, raced by driver Alicia Reina and co-driver Carlos Dante Pelayo, both Argentines, during the third stage of the Dakar Rally in Pisco, Peru. (AP Photo/Ricardo Mazalan)

KTM motorbike rider Matthias Walkner of Austria celebrated winning his category's race in Cordoba, Argentina.

"This is a dream come true, I am so happy. This took a lot from me, but here we are," Walkner said.

Some perhaps weren't so happy. While in Peru, two drivers watched their vehicle go up in smoke after it overheated. And a duo piloting one Toyota stood on top of a dune, pointing in opposite directions as they argued over which way to go in crossing the desert.


In this Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2018 photo, Philippe Raud, of France, right, and Miguel Angel Alvarez Pineda, of Peru, both drivers of Toyota cars, point in opposite directions as they try to determine their way across the dunes during stage 5 of the Dakar Rally between San Juan de Marcona and Arequipa, Peru. (AP Photo/Ricardo Mazalan)

This gallery was edited by the Colombia-based Associated Press photographer Ricardo Mazalan, who covered this year's race.