Al-Attiyah, Sunderland win cautious first stage of Dakar 2018
Pisco (Peru), Jan 7: Qatar’s Nasser Al-Attiyah (Toyota) and Briton Sam Sunderland (KTM) topped the first stage of the 2018 Dakar Rally in the car and motorcycle sections, respectively, on a day marked by caution when many drivers chose to wait for later legs to make a move.
The opening stage, between Lima and Pisco, was only 31 km long over sand dunes, an apparently easy beginning to get into the race rhythm, but the drivers started after noon with a high sun, which made it difficult to see the circuit’s shifting surface conditions, reports Efe.
The drivers, used to starting at dawn, had to face unusual conditions, starting from the inaugural podium in Lima and covering a distance of 242 km to reach the starting point for the 31-km-long Selective Sector of the day.
Peterhansel, the most successful Dakar driver with 13 titles — 6 in motorcycles and 7 in cars — was outside the top-10 and complained about bad visibility hampering him in identifying the shape of the small dunes, which looked as difficult as the higher ones which he is used to tackling.
Spaniard Carlos Sainz had similar troubles and finished in the 16th place, 2 minutes, 39 seconds behind the leader.
In the motorcycle category, Sunderland began his title defense strongly, closely followed by Frenchman Adrien van Beveren (Yamaha) and Chilean Pablo Quintanilla (Husqvarna), who came third, 55 seconds behind the Brit.
Quintanilla told EFE that he drove as fast as he could without taking risks in a dangerous stage, since the race had just begun.
Spaniard Laia Sanz (KTM), ranked 12th, told EFE that the stage went well for him because he could find a position of control which eluded many drivers, although he said that the relatively short 31 km were full of suffering, and Sunday’s race would be even harder.
In quads, Chilean Ignacio Casale, one of the pre-rally favorites, took the lead with a time of 27 minutes 32 seconds, followed by Russia’s Sergei Kariakin and Argentina’s Pablo Copetti.
The first stage saw its share of incidents, with German rider Juergen Droessiger having to abandon the race and Portuguese Joaquim Rodrigues getting hospitalized with a fractured vertebra.
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