The Dakar Rally is one of motorsport's most gruelling and most dangerous events. The 9,000km-long route runs through Argentina, Chile and Bolivia – much of it unmarked desert.

Four categories of vehicles (motorbikes, quads, cars and trucks) tackle an incredible variety of terrains, from deserts to mountain roads and flooded rivers to salt flats.

Several drivers have crashed out of this year's event, while a Polish motorcyclist died during the third stage from suspected hypothermia and dehydration. Michal Hernik's body was found about 300m from the route at the 206km mark of the stage.

Photographers Dean Mouhtaropoulos, Jean-Paul Pelissier and Franck Fife have been following the action, taking spectacular photos in very challenging conditions. IBTimes UK shares some of the best images from the first eight stages of the 2015 Dakar Rally.