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Sousa takes 2014 Dakar opener

2014-01-06 04:31

EARLY DAKAR LEAD FOR SOUSA: Portuguese driver Carlos Sousa heads for the win during Stage 1 of the 2014 Dakar Rally between Rosario and San Luis, Argentina, on January 5. Image: AFP

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SAN LUIS, Argentina - Portugal's Carlos Sousa, driving a Haval, claimed the opening stage of the 36th Dakar Rally on Sunday but double defending champion Stephane Peterhansel lost time with a puncture.

Sousa finished the 180km special from Rosario to San Luis in 2hr20min36 with Argentina's Orlando Terranova (Mini) 11sec behind and fellow Mini driver, Qatar's 2011 champion Nasser al-Attiyah, was third, 47sec back.

France's Peterhansel, in a third Mini and seeking a 12th overall title (after six on a motorcycle and five in a car) had a puncture and was down in sixth place, 4min21s behind Sousa.

BARREDA LEADS BIKES

Al-Attiyah said later: "It was a good day for us, a beautiful stage in which we didn't take too many risks. I caught up with Peterhansel towards the end, he let me through, and I think we ended up posting a good time."

Honda's Joan Barreda clocked 2hr25min31 to take the motorcycle stage with Spanish compatriot Marc Coma (KTM) 37 seconds behind.

Frenchman Cyril Despres, defending champion and seeking a sixth career title, was third, 1min40 off the provisional leader.

Barreda said: "I'm really happy with the first stage. At the beginning I had some trouble easing into the race due to a slight problem with the suspension but afterwards everything went smoothly.

"We'll work on it to ride even faster on Monday and I'll try to keep up this pace in the next few stages."

Despres, winner in 2005, 2007, 2010, 2012 and 2013, said it had been an emotional day for him on his debut for Yamaha, having switched from KTM for the 2014 race.

"180km of this was a great way to get the ball rolling though I took some time to find my bearings and ease into my pace," he said. "The first special is always tough when you come from cold Europe and you get thrown into the thick of things, so I'm happy to get good feelings.

"I got a bit emotional at the start, what with starting a new adventure... It was a difficult year, with the decision to move to Yamaha, and then having to prepare the motorcycle, working with the entire team... So when D-Day comes, it feels good to be racing again."

SALT FLATS IN PERIL?

431 vehicles are taking part in the auto, motorcycle, quad and truck classes and will cross Argentina, Bolivia and Chile but could run into environmental protests along the way with fears about the effect of the race on the world's highest salt flats at Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia, despite only the motorcycles being allowed to cross into the country.

Chileans are worried about damage caused by the vehicles roaring along the Inca Trail.

The second stage of the race on Monday will be over 400km from San Luis to San Rafael.

CARS: Stage 1 result
1 Carlos Sousa (POR) 2hr20min36   
2 Orlando Terranova (ARG) +11sec
3 Nasser Al-Attiyah (QAT) +47sec
4 Nani Roma (ESP) +01min15
5 Carlos Sainz (ESP) +04min03
6 Stéphane Peterhansel (FRA) +04min21
7 Krzystof Holowczyc (POL)    +04min21
8 Christian Lavieille (FRA) +05min42
9 Leeroy Poulter (RSA) +05min57
10 Erik van Loon (NED) +06min02

BIKES: Stage 1 result
1 Joan Barreda Bort (ESP) 2hr25min31
2 Marc Coma (ESP) +37
3 Cyril Despres (FRA) +01min40
4 Alain Duclos (FRA) +01min56
5 Paulo Goncalves (POR) +02min25
6 Francisco Lopez Contardo (CHI) +03min24
7 Juan Pedrero Garcia (ESP) +03min47
8 Michael Metge (FRA) +04min33
9 Sam Sunderland (GBR) +04min33
10 Alessandro Botturi (ITA) +04min48



US - Stage 1 - Car/Bike - Stage Summary... by Dakar
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'Hey! Where did all my petrol go?'

Are automakers taking car owners for a ride? And are fuel consumption figures just for laughs? DAVE FALL finds out if we're all just being misled?

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