Qatari ace driver Nasser al-Attiyah started his 14th Dakar Rally campaign in style, winning the opening stage in Lima yesterday.
The two-time winner, in 2011 and 2015, racing for Toyota Gazoo team was the fastest in the 31km stage, ahead of title rivals Nani Roma and defending champion Stephane Peterhansel of Peugeot.
Al-Attiyah relied on his French co-driver Mathieu Baumel as the pair excelled on the fast stage.
“I do not want to do strategy, because I have complete confidence in my co-driver Matthieu. Tomorrow’s stage I know will be difficult. But I am especially happy with our victory today; tomorrow it could be something else. But we will do our best,” said al-Attiyah.
The defending champion Peterhansel started the Dakar outside top 10 and wasn’t happy with his performance.
“I didn’t feel comfortable with the headlights so high. I wasn’t very confident, so I drove like a granny and stayed on the defensive throughout the stage. Proportionally, we lost a lot of time to Nasser. Two minutes in 30 kilometres is a lot, but we need to ease into the race, it’ll work out,” said the Peugeot driver.
Nine-time world rally champion Sebastien Loeb had a day to forget after the brakes on his Peugeot failed just 3 kilometres into the special. The driver from Alsace lost over five minutes to al-Attiyah.
The 40th edition of the classic endurance event, the tenth to be held in South America since it was shifted from terror-hit sub-Sahara Africa will end in Argentina’s second city of Cordoba on January 20.
Meanwhile, Britain’s Sam Sunderland got the defence of his Dakar motorcycling title off to a winning start yesterday when he won the opening stage of the 9,000km race from Lima to Pisco.
Sunderland, on a KTM, finished ahead of France’s Adrien Van Beveren, on a Yamaha, and Pablo Quintanilla of Chile on a Husqvarna. The British rider finished the 31km desert sprint in 20 min 56 sec with his rivals 32 sec and 55 sec further back.
The second stage of the two-week event takes place in and around the town of Pisco today.
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