NOT SO HAPPY NOW: Mini driver Nasser al-Attiyah has been stripped of his win on Stage 1 of the 2015 Dakar Rally for speeding in a restricted area. Image: Facebook
VILLA CARLOS PAZ, Argentina
- Qatar's Nasser al-Attiyah was stripped of his victory on the opening stage of
the 2015 Dakar Rally on Sunday for exceeding the speed limit and defending
champion Nani Roma’s hopes were shattered.
Mini driver al-Attiyah, the 2011 champion, had finished first on the
170km timed stage between Buenos Aires and Villa Carlos Paz, clocking one hour
and 12 minutes. That was 22sec faster than Argentina's Orlando Terranova, also
in a Mini, and 1min04 ahead of American Robby Gordon behind the wheel of a
MISERABLE DAY FOR ROMA
Seven hours later al-Attiyah
was punished for travelling at 68km/h in a section of the stage where the limit
was 50km/h. He was penalised two minutes and relegated to seventh place on the
stage with Terranova declared the winner ahead of Gordon and South Africa's
Giniel de Villiers in a Toyota.
Veteran Peugeot drivers
Carlos Sainz and Stephane Peterhansel placed eighth and 10th
It was also a miserable first day for Roma as the Spaniard's Mini broke
down after just 10km and he eventually ended the day being towed home in 135th
place and six and a half hours off the lead.
Peterhansel, an 11-times champion, admitted that he did not drive flat
out with a marathon stint to follow over the next two weeks. "It was a bit
stressful to tackle the first special when you don't know how strong you
are," said the Frenchman. "We eased into the race, without taking too
many risks, gently, keeping a watchful eye on all the dials... We're trying to
learn about the car. We had no clue how far we could go."
In the motorcycle section, Britain's Sam Sunderland on a KTM was fastest
in 1hr18min57, five seconds faster than Paulo Goncalves of Portugal on a Honda
and 1min12 ahead of last year's winner Marc Coma on a KTM.
This year's rally is a
gruelling 9000km trek through Argentina, Chile and Bolivia before arriving back
in Buenos Aires for a January 17 finish.
Former winners Sainz and Peterhansel were spearheading the Peugeot
campaign as the French automaker returned to the Dakar Rally for the first time
in 25 years.
Their goal was to win but
at the very least they were expected to prevent the Minis from completing
another clean sweep of the auto podium.
Peterhansel took second
place last year for Mini behind then teammate Roma.
Peugeot won the Dakar for
four successive years from 1987-1990 when it was still staged in Africa. This
year's event, the seventh in South America since its enforced transfer for
security reasons from Africa, is the 37th.
The 2014 race takes the Dakar caravan from the Atacama, the driest spot
on the planet, to the Iquique dunes and crossing the Andes at the highest point
on Argentina's Route 40, the 4970m mountain pass of Abra del Acay.
In all, there will be 4600km of special stages including a 781km time
trial from the Bolivian city of Uyuni to Chile's Pacific Coast.