Russia to launch Moscow-Beijing rally to rival Dakar

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MOSCOW (AP) Russia's state-owned gas company Gazprom has thrown its weight behind a rival to the renowned Dakar Rally as Russia flexes its muscles in the world of motorsport.

Much like the Dakar race - which is now held in South America - the proposed Moscow-to-Beijing Rally would see teams race across thousands of kilometers of inhospitable wilderness.

The aim is to create ''the No. 1 rally in the world,'' says Alexei Miller, head of Gazprom, in comments reported by Russian agency R-Sport. Gazprom is known for lavishing millions of dollars on sponsoring sporting events, including the Champions League.

Miller said the inaugural rally would be held next year, but it was not immediately clear when exactly it would take place. Russia held its first Formula One Grand Prix last year.