One of the world's most gruelling motorsport events is currently underway in South America. The route of the 2017 Dakar Rally runs for nearly 9,000km through three countries – Paraguay, Argentina and Bolivia – much of it across unmarked desert. Four categories of vehicles (motorbikes, quads, cars and trucks) tackle an incredible variety of terrains – many at high altitude – from deserts to mountain roads and flooded rivers to salt flats.

The rally will end on 14 January in Buenos Aires. Photographers Franck Fife, Dan Istitene and Ricardo Moraes are following the action, taking spectacular photos in very challenging conditions. IBTimes UK shares some of the best images from the early stages of the 2017 Dakar Rally.