Reigning Dakar champion Sam Sunderland has taken the win on stage one of the 2018 Dakar Rally.
Sunderland got his 2018 Dakar Rally off to the perfect start with a commanding win on the short 30km special stage in the dunes just outside of Lima, Peru. The Brit, carrying the number-one plate on his KTM 450 RALLY, took the win by 33 seconds from Yamaha's Adrien van Beveren.
Sam Sunderland leads after day 1of the 2018 Dakar. Credit: PhotosDakar.com / KTM Media Library
Although the special stage was short it did pose some challenges with soft sand making the going very tiring to ride. Difficult navigation combined with blind crests also caught some of the riders out. Sunderland was the final motorcycle rider to set off today, but got his title-defence off to a great start. The 2017 champion rode a fast, but risk-free stage and was pleased to open his 2018 Dakar Rally with a win.
"I had a great time today, the departure podium was good fun, then we had a 200km liaison to the special," Sunderland said, "The 30km loop through the dunes went well – the bike felt good and I feel really comfortable. Although it was just a short one today, it’s always good to get a stage win. Tomorrow will be tougher, but if I can stay consistent and not make any mistakes I’m hoping for another good result.”
Yamaha;s Adrien Van Beveren was second on stage 1
Heading Yamalube Yamaha Official Rally Team's efforts in this short opening stage, Adrien Van Beveren was second.
"The Dakar has started and that feels good," Van Beveren said "We've been working hard all year for this event so it felt good to get things started here in Peru. As for the special stage, I decided to attack from the start. I pushed hard but one-kilometre into the special there was a big dune with a big jump on its back side. I took it easy and continued the rest of the special on my own pace. My goal for the rest of the days is to stay fast while also making sure I avoid taking risks. We have a great bike and our setup makes things even easier in the dunes. Overall, I'm really happy with the way this Dakar started and I'm looking forward to the coming days."
Pablo Quintanilla was third fastest.
Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing rider Pablo Quintanilla posted the third fastest time on the short opening timed special. Bringing his FR 450 Rally machine to the finish of stage one without any problems.
“I had a good special stage today. It might have only been 30km-long but it was good to get into the groove of things," Quintanilla declared. "It’s always important to get these first few stages done. I rode fast without taking any risks. There were also some tricky parts, where it was difficult to see the depth of the dunes on their landings. I am happy to start the race with a top three result. This first week of the race is mostly contested in deep sand dunes. It is going to be tough and demanding but I am ready for it. I will do my best to remain focused on my navigation and I think this will be very important for this first week of the Dakar.”
Monster Energy Honda Team's Joan Barreda finished 21:52 seconds back from Sundarland in 4th while Yamaha's Xavier de Soultrait rounded out the top 5.
2016 Champion Toby Price was happy with his return and 14th on stage 1. Credit: PhotosDakar.com / KTM Media Library
2016 Dakar champion, Toby Price was the best of the Australians and was happy to complete the first stage safely. Only now returning to competition following the injury sustained in last year’s event, Price rode well, minimising any risks to post the 14th fastest time of the day.
"I’m happy to get that first stage under my belt. I didn’t quite get the result that I wanted but it was a really short stage and there’s a long race ahead," Price said. My plan is to build things up slowly and take each day as it comes. I bombed out hard early on last year so I wanted to get today done and then concentrate on getting into the race a little more. The pace is there, and my leg feels good so I’m excited for the rest of event.”
Taking his time to settle in, Australian Rodney Faggotter brought his Yamaha to the finish of today's stage in 25th position. Feeling good in the warm temperatures of the Peruvian countryside, the Aussie is looking to continue building on his speed during the coming stages.
Australian Rodney Faggotter finished in 24th place.
"Stage one went pretty well for me. With it featuring a short 30km-long special stage, I did my best trying to settle in as smoothly as possible," Faggotter explained. "Riding in the deep sand demands a specific technique and I'm gradually getting used to it again. With riders starting in reverse order, we needed to be extra careful when passing people. I played it smart and tried to avoid making any mistakes. Overall, everything is going according to plan and I'm happy we got this event going. It's going to be a long and demanding two weeks of racing, but I'm more than ready for them."
The third Australian in the 2018 Dakar, Scott Britnell finished 44th overall.
Sunday’s stage two of the 2018 Dakar will consist of a short 12km liaison leading into a 267km special stage in a loop to the east of the small Peruvian town of Pisco. The stage is 90% off-piste and begins with 40km of canyons before heading out into the soft sand dunes. The bikes will set off after the cars making navigation a little easier with tracks to follow.
Main Photo: Sam Sunderland Credit: PhotosDakar.com / KTM Media Library