Toby Price in charge as Stage 1 of Dakar Rally 2020 springs a few surprises
© Flavien Duhamel/Red Bull Content Pool
Get the lowdown on day one of the Dakar Rally 2020 in Saudi Arabia, as defending Bike champ Toby Price leads from the front and Vaidotas Zala takes a surprise lead in the Car class.
The 2020 Dakar Rally kicked off for the first time in Saudi Arabia, as hundreds of competitors started the epic 7,500km event with a mammoth 752km stage that left from the city of Jeddah and heading north to Al Wajh.
After a decade of racing in South America, the third chapter of motorsports' ultimate test of endurance got underway in Saudi Arabia with 83 cars, 144 motorcycles, 46 SxS buggies, 46 trucks and 23 quads gathered for a pre-sunrise start after Saturday night's opening ceremony in Jeddah to take a leap into the unknown and tackle the opening stage, which featured 319km of special stage racing.
As Saudi Arabia becomes the 30th nation to host the truly international Dakar Rally, get the lowdown on what when on and who the winners and losers were on day one of the Dakar Rally 2020.
On two wheels, Red Bull KTM's defending champion Toby Price started the 2020 edition of the Dakar Rally in the same fashion he ended in South America a year ago by winning the opening stage in Saudi Arabia.
The Australian wasted little time on Stage 1 and by the halfway point had overhauled early leader, Honda's Ricky Brabec. The American rider, who narrowly missed out on overall victory in 2019 after a late mechanical failure, had held the lead for around 100km.
After being handed a two minute penalty, at the end of the stage, Price's winning margin was just over two seconds after 319km of racing. His KTM team-mates also finished strongly, with Matthias Walkner rounding out the top three and Britain's Sam Sunderland ending the day in fifth behind Honda's Kevin Benavides.
The Yamaha duo of Adrien van Beveren and Xavier de Soultrait had a tough opening day in the desert. Van Beveren was in contention for a top three finish, but eventually ended up over nine minutes behind the leader and finished Stage 1 in 10th, with team-mate de Soultrait in 13th.
Bike standings after Stage 1
- Toby Price (AUS) 3h 21m 33s
- Ricky Brabec (USA) +5s
- Matthias Walkner (AUT) +40s
- Kevin Benavides (ARG) +2m 31s
- Sam Sunderland (GBR) +3m 15s
Stage 1 of the Dakar Rally for the Car class ended with a surprise leader in the shape of Mini's Vaidotas Zala, who snatched the lead from early pace setter and reigning 2019 champion Nasser Al-Attiyah.
Toyota's Al-Attiyah led for the majority of Sunday's coastal stage, but suffered three punctures that gave the hard-charging Zala a shot at the stage win. At the day's end the Lithuanian was over two minutes ahead of the X-Raid Mini pairing of Stéphane Peterhansel and Carlos Sainz, who finished the stage in second and third respectively.
Double Formula One world champion and Le Mans 24 Hour winner Fernando Alonso finished his first day of Dakar Rally action in 11th, 15m 27s off the leader's pace, after a cautious debut stage in his Toyota.
Fellow former Le Mans winner Romain Dumas had a disastrous start to his Dakar campaign and was forced to retire just 40km into the opening stage when his DXX buggy caught fire. Similarly, previous Dakar winners Giniel de Villiers and Nani Roma struggled. Toyota's de Villiers suffered with a slow puncture, while Roma lost 20 minutes during the stage.
Car standings after Stage 1
- Vaidotas Zala (LTU) 3h 19m 4s
- Stéphane Peterhansel (FRA) +2m 14s
- Carlos Sainz (ESP) +2m 50s
- Nasser Al-Attiyah (QAT) +5m 33s
- Bernhard Ten Brinke (NDL) +6m 30s
In the SSV class, Aron Domżała started his second Dakar Rally campaign in style and beat American Sacey Currie by almost two minutes at the end of Stage 1 to make up for the disappointment of retirement in 2019 and claim his first Dakar victory.
2017 champion Sergey Karyakin led the early running, but ended the stage over eight minutes behind Domżała at the flag.
SxS standings after Stage 1
- Aron Domzala (POL) 4h 58s
- Casey Currie (USA) +1m 51s
- Jose Antonio Hinojo Lopez (ESP) +5m 49s
- F Lopez Cantar (CHI) +6m 47s
- Sergey Karyakin (RUS) +8m 52s
Chilean rider Ignacio Casale started his 2020 Dakar campaign in dominant style in the Quad class and was aided further when rival Axel Dutrie crashed out early on the route from Jeddah to Al Wajh. Dutrie crashed out at the 134km mark, signalling the Frenchman's third retirement from the race and allowing Casale an uncontested stage win.
Casale won the Quad category in 2014 and 2018, but competed in last year's race in the UTV category and his return to Quad competition showed he's keen to recapture his crown. He ended the first day over five-and-a-half minutes ahead of nearest challenger Rafał Sonik, with Czech rider Tomáš Kubiena finishing the day in third.
Quad standings after Stage 1
- Ignacio Casale (CHI) 4h 17m 37s
- Rafał Sonik (POL) +5m 36s
- Tomáš Kubiena(CZE) +6m 55s
- Giovanni Enrico (CHI) +9m 55s
- Manual Andujar(ARG) +11m 41s
In the battle between the giant trucks, Anton Shibalov showed no signs of being rusty after sitting out the 2019 edition of the Dakar Rally and ended day one at the top of the times in his KAMAZ.
The Russian ended the first stage over a minute-and-a-half ahead of Maz driver Siarhei Viazovich, with Iveco's Janus van Kasteren just over three minutes off the pace in third.
Reigning Truck champion Eduard Nikolaev ended his first day of competition in Saudi Arabia in 10th place at the wheel of his KAMAZ and over 11 minutes adrift of the leader.
Truck standings after Stage 1
- Anton Shibalov (RUS) 3h 40m 35s
- Siarhei Viazovich (BLR) +1m 33s
- Janus Van Kasteren (NDL) +3m 9s
- Dmitry Sotnikov (RUS) +4m 7s
- Martin Macik (CZE) +4m 52s
Quote of the day
"It was a bit of a strange day. My roadbook locked up on me, so it was lucky in one way that I caught Matthias Walkner there. Then, on another 59 kilometres the roadbook tore. After that I was just trying to follow some dust and keep up with the guys. I unfortunately picked up a bit of a penalty. Once the roadbook has gone, you're pretty much driving blind. It's not the greatest start. At least we know we still have another 11 days of riding to come. The bike is feeling great." – Toby Price.
Once the roadbook has gone, you're pretty much driving blind
Stage 2 preview
After an overnight stay in the Al Wajh bivouac, the Dakar moves off to Neom in northwestern Saudi Arabia. The timed special stage of 367km will offer the riders spectacular views of the Red Sea, as well as plenty of navigational challenges along the way.
Competitors will enjoy a shorter day at 401km overall, but those expecting the racing to be any less furious will be in for a shock, as special stages account for a full 367km of the route.
Catch the action from Saudi Arabia live with Red Bull TV's Daily Dakar show.
Dakar Daily – Stage 1