Successful debut by HIMOINSA Team in the prologue
British rider Sam Sunderland of KTM wins Stage 1 (with a time of 1:18:57) and grabs the early lead towards the winner’s podium in Buenos Aires, with little trouble for Miguel Puertas (102th, +00:25:50), Rosa Romero (118th, +00:30:52) and Antonio Gimeno (116th, +00:30:51).
The 37th edition of Dakar, the world’s toughest rally raid, has officially started. The first stage was all on Argentine soil running across the countryside from Buenos Aires to Villa Carlos Paz. The pilots faced 838km, with a special 175km timed section. Fast tracks, technical tracks and rally tracks with dirt and gravel made technique extremely important to make it through today’s stage.
The official race start began at 5:50am from Buenos Aires, with 161 motorcycles taking part after US rider Tony Gera was was not cleared. After a first liaison, reigning champion in the category Marc Coma took the exit to the special section at 7:50 am. The turn for the first of our pilots, Granada-born Miguel Puertas, came just after 8:30am in the first timed section. A Lieutenant Colonel in the Spanish Air Frace, Puertas clocked a time of 00:12:28 for the first way point located at the 15km mark. He held a steady pace throughout, with his position in the remaining WP of the special section varying from 105th to 93rd. Puertas ended up finishing in 102th place with a time of 1:44:47, back 00:25:50 from the day’s fastest rider, Sam Sunderland. “This was not a stage where big gaps could be opened. Our plan was to get a feel, since the bike came from Spain and it was if we were riding it for the first time. It was the first real chance to test it, since we spent several days with preparations and going to bed late. Until you start, you don’t really disconnect from this part. It will be pretty hot tomorrow and we still don’t know how the stage will be. We’re working on the route planner. If we had pressed more today, we might have shaved off 10 minutes, but that was not our goal. There were a lot of people yesterday, and the last 200km today were brutal. You could barely get through on your motorcycle the last kilometer”.
Rosa Romero, wife of last year’s champion in the car category, enjoyed the first stage, which went as planned, sticking close to Madrid driver Antonio Gimeno. The Catalan woman, one of the team’s main attractions the day before in the symbolic start, finished the first stage according to plan, but nothing is predictable in the Dakar. Rose starts this edition of Dakar showcasing great technical skill on the motorcycle, having competed with it in the Merzouga Rally and training hard in other races, such as the Transanatolia Rally. She performed as expected at all times, moving between 106th and 118th, where she ended up 00:30:52 behind the leader with a total time of 1:49:49. “For being the first day, things went well for us to get into the race and get a rhythm. Tomorrow is a real Dakar day and we are working on the road book. I doubt it will be too slow because of how long it is. It should be a mix of technique and speed. I haven’t had the chance to talk to Nani yet. I don’t want to bother him. I stopped by Mini, but the mechanic was busy with other cars.
Meanwhile, Madrid rider Antonio Gimeno followed team orders to perfection. The aim is for all three riders to reach the podium in Buenos Aires on the 17th. Gimeno is two places in front of Rosa Romero, at 116th, with a time of 1:49:48, 00:30:51 behind the youngster, Stage 1 winner Sunderland. “This was an extremely long stage with a heavy going liaison. However, the special was short and easy. The ground was hard, with little navigation, while the presence of the crowd and safety was a big help”.
As for the big names, KTM rider Sam Sunderland took the first special section, just 0:00:05 ahead of Portuguese rider Gonçalves, of Honda, and 0:01:15 ahead of the reigning champion in this category, KTM rider Marc Coma.
Standings after Stage1:
Stage 2: Villa Carlos Paz – San Juan (liaison: 107km / special: 518km)
Stage of Dakar: any rest will be short-lived, as competitors will have a particularly busy schedule: quite simply the longest special stage in the rally, which is varied enough to unsettle even the most experienced of drivers. Hard terrain at the start of the race will be followed by dusty sections in the middle of the day and a sandy stretch to finish. This is the first real test, which can only be successfully overcome through constant vigilance, ahead of Atacama.