Every year racers gather from all over the world on harsh eastern South American terrain. Their goal? To cover the 5,000 kilometer-long, off-road Dakar Rally held by the Amaury Sport Organization. Race classes include cyclists, motorcycles and cars, but perhaps the most popular race class is the T4 which is made up entirely of commercial diesel trucks.

Not your everyday racing vehicle, the heavy commercial vehicle class began when support vehicle drivers responsible for hauling spare parts for race teams began a race of their own in 1980. Since then, Russian commercial vehicle manufacturer, Kamaz, known primarily for its heavy duty distribution trucks, dominates the competition: claiming 11 titles as of 2013.

“This feat is truly mind-boggling when you consider that the race-winning Kamaz trucks use leaf springs and solid axles front and rear and weigh in at a whopping 20,000 pounds,” Harry Wagner of Diesel Power Mag writes.

While a standard issue Kamaz truck can cost upwards of $30,000, hand built versions of their rally race and support vehicles can cost anywhere from $250,000 to $450,000. These racer trucks, are, of course, souped up: packed with endurance race components like a turbo diesel engine, race shocks, forged alloy wheels, and Michelin XZL tires.

The 2014 Dakar Rally began on January 5th and will end on January 18th. Check out some of the action below.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wzGczBKkQ_A?wmode=Opaque]

Read more at Diesel Power Mag