SOME SMART ADVICE: A sticker on the map-holder of Husqvarna's Christopher Cork tells it like it is ahead of the first day of technical verification for the 2015 Dakar Rally. Image: AP / Felipe Dana
CARLOS PAZ, Argentina - British biker Sam Sunderland delivered on his promise at the
end of the 175km 2015 Dakar opening special on Sunday January 4.
Paulo Gonçalves (Honda) by a slim margin to claim KTM’s first win of the year.
Marc Coma and Joan Barreda had an uneventful day in the saddle, biding their
time for when the race reaches rougher terrain.
Despite a streak of bad luck during
his first two Dakar starts with Honda, Sunderland showed glimpses of his speed
when he took Stage 2 back in 2014. He made good on this promise during today's
(Sunday) opening stage from Buenos Aires to Villa Carlos Paz. He took his
second stage win in the biggest rally on Earth.
REASON TO RE-ASSESS
Reunited with his KTM after its Atlantic
crossing, the Englishman masterfully used his motorcycle's qualities to steal
the thunder from team mate Marc Coma, who finished the stage more than a minute
Sunderland now has good reason to
re-assess his goals, although the 25-year-old knows that the race is long and the
competition will be fierce.
Paulo Gonçalves, for instance, wants
to make amends in South America. The Portuguese 2013 World Rally champion broke
down in tears when his Honda burst into flames during Stage 5 of the 2014
With only a five-second deficit to Sunderland after the inaugural stage,
Gonçalves is determined to do well, just like Coma, who aims to crush
pretenders to his throne.
STUNNING ROOKIE RIDE
The Spaniard, third in today's
stage, will not have to deal with Cyril Despres but will have to keep a
watchful eye on fourth-placed Joan Barreda. Alain Duclos and his Sherco
finished fifth, two minutes behind the winner, but ahead of Jeremías Israel and
fellow-countryman David Casteu.
There was also a stunning rookie
performance from motocross rider Matthias Walkner who earned a solid eighth in
today's warm-up stage, while Olivier Pain and Jordi Viladoms were extra-cautious
and conceded more than three-and-a-half minutes.
Ignacio Casale was unfazed by having to open the road on a highly rolling first
stage and immediately proved he still had what it takes a year after his first
Dakar victory. The Chilean already has a one-minute margin over last year's
runner-up, Rafal Sonik, with Sergio Lafuente rounding off the provisional podium,
with no surprises after 175km of racing.
Mauro Almeida sits in fourth place
in his second Dakar start, about 20sec ahead of Qatar's Mohammed Abu-Issa,
fourth in his Dakar debut and ready to set his sights on loftier goals in 2015.