NASCAR racers have it easy as they only have to drive 500 miles max in a race and they never drive in the wet. F1 drivers have it even easier as they never have to drive more than two hours. World Rally Championship (WRC) drivers have it a little tougher as they have to drive in all conditions for three days in each event. Few, if any of the top drivers ever have to work on their own cars.

Why is it then that several former world champion racers enjoy getting their hands dirty, digging themselves out of ditches and repairing their own race cars during an event? Answer: It's the challenge. And the ultimate racing challenge happens every January in Northern Africa.

The Dakar, formerly know as the Paris-Dakar Race and now in its 26th year, has become one of motor racing's epic events. It attracts hundreds of competitors from all over the world and is one of the most watched events on television. There'll even be a cinematic documentary on the race hitting the big screen this summer called "The Last Road Trip -- Paris to Dakar."

It's the ultimate off-road race as it runs for three weeks and covers 7000 miles, of which half are run at competitive speeds. It's like seven Indy 500s, three Le Mans, four Baja 1000s, or two full seasons of the WRC rolled into one big event.

"Finishing Dakar will mean more to me than winning Monte Carlo," Colin McRae opined when he finally arrived one day after the leaders at the bivouac. Undoubtedly the well-known former World Rally Champ was the star attraction on this year's race. Pundits never thought he'd enjoy the event unless he was in with a chance to win. But after getting stuck, working on the car, and sleeping in the desert he began to enjoy the challenge. Getting to the finish in Dakar is without a doubt the thrill that drives competitors from all over the world to return to this single event.