SWEET RIDE IN THE SAND: South Africa's Giniel de Villiers and Dirk von Zitzewitz came home third on Stage 1 of the 2015 Dakar Rally on Jan 4. Image: Toyota
VILLA CARLOS PAZ, Argentina - The Dakar cannot be won on the first stage – but it certainly can be lost. And that’s what happened to defending Dakar champion Nani Roma who had to park his Mini after tackling a bump a few kilometres into Sunday’s (Jan 4) first special stage.
The Spaniard was stopped for several hours and it will need a miracle for him to catch up by the end of the race in Buenos Aires.
The other side of the coin is that his team mate, Nasser al-Attiyah, got the most from of his supercharged Mini and is on the hunt for a second overall victory to go with the one he earned for Volkswagen in 2011.
GORDON STILL HOPEFUL
The Qatari backed up his ambitions over the 170km+ Stage 1 from Buenos Aires to Villa Carlos Paz, claiming his first win this year by 22sec over Argentina's Orlando Terranova, also part of the X-Raid Armada.
Robby Gordon (USA), still looking for his maiden overall win after taking several stages, finished third, a minute behind the winner, while South Africa’s Giniel de Villiers (Toyota Hilux) came in fourth and has good reason to be hopeful.
He was 1min12 behind the leader ahead of a bunch of close-running racers, among them team mates Poulter and Howie in the second SA Toyota Hilux who finished 4min40 down on the stage winner.
The eagerly awaited Peugeots had a so-so start to the rally, with Carlos Sainz eighth place, two minutes behind al-Attiyah and two places ahead of Stéphane Peterhansel, who was probably expecting something more from his debut with the lion brand.
Cyril Despres, on the other hand, has already lost 10 minutes to the leader.
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