The toughest rally-raid on earth is now well underway after a hard fought first stage in Argentina.
The party atmosphere of the pre-race Podium presentation gave way to the serious business of racing as the first stage of the 2014 Dakar Rally was contested on the route from Rosario to San Luis in Argentina.
It was an especially early start for the bikers as they set off to find the stage at 4am. Leading the two-wheel competitors onto the track was five-time champion Cyril Despres.
This technical stage with a special focus on balance and braking over 180km of loose, stony ground saw a clutch of bikers looking to make an early impression. Stage winner Joan Barreda certainly showed plenty of aggression and made an early impression on the leaderboard as his Honda pushed past by both Cyril and three-time Dakar winner Marc Coma.
Cyril’s Yamaha stable-mate and reigning quad class champion Marcos Patronelli was also denied an opening stage win by a young upstart. Chilean Ignacio Casale won the first quad stage with his South American neighbour Marcos still giving his home crowd in Argentina plenty to cheer with a second place finish.
Another dark horse emerged in the car race as Carlos Sousa took top honours on the opening day of racing. The Portuguese driver and his Chinese built Haval led home a string of former Dakar champions including Stephane Peterhansel, Nasser Al-Attiyah, Carlos Sainz and Nani Roma.
A day of unexpected heroes at the Dakar was completed in the truck race. It was predictable enough to see Ayrat Mardeev of Team Kamaz Master winning the stage but what proved a surprise was seeing three other manufacturers inside the top four. Kamaz’s Eduard Nikolaev, last year’s winner, had to settle for fifth with Tatra, Man and Iveco all keeping pace on the first day.
Marc Coma’s Bitesize Blog:
“In South America the temperature changes a lot and therefore we sweat a lot. I wear base layers to help take away the sweat and stop it from irritating my skin. Over a few days this wouldn’t be a major issue but when you race for 14 days it’s quite easy to rub parts of your skin away.
"It’s important to take the best care possible of your hands. These are what take the most abuse. We run foam grips on the handlebars to make it more comfortable and I always keep a spare pair of gloves on me so I can change them midway through the day if I need to.”
Dakar Alphabet… O is for Outstanding Achievement Award
Inside the bivouacs of the 15-day cross-country rally-raid Stephane Peterhansel is known simply as “Monsieur Dakar”. It could have all been different, as a teenager he had a different name, Skatepark Peterhansel on account of the titles he won as a skateboarder. However, once he turned his attention to rally racing the Frenchman has never looked back; six victories on a bike and more recently five victories behind the wheel of a car. It’s no surprise that Monsieur Dakar returns in 2014 as the reigning champion.
On This Stage…
2006: Carlos Sainz starts his Dakar career by entering the race and the two-time WRC champion soon shows his class by picking up four stage victories during his first attempt at the desert classic.
Formula One in the 1950s was dominated by one man, Argentina’s Juan Manuel Fangio. During the decade Fangio won four consecutive drivers’ championships, which other two drivers have since matched Fangio’s achievements?
☐ Sebastian Vettel and Alain Prost
☐ Sebastian Vettel and Michael Schumacher
☐ Alain Prost and Michael Schumacher
Yesterday’s answer: Lionel Messi has scored just one goal at the FIFA World Cup so far in his career.
The action comes thick and fast with another punishing 750km to be negotiated between San Luis and San Rafael. The grey dunes of Nihuil will be the first taste of sand for the competitors at the 2014 Dakar Rally.