Ladies and gentlemen, Stage 1 of the Dakar Rally from Rosario to San Luis, Argentina has been completed. Right now competitors are getting all the rest they can at the bivouac while crews work to get their vehicles ready for Stage 2. Joan Barreda won on his Honda CRF 450 Rally bike despite taking a brief spill off the course. The Spaniard didn’t let that slow him down, although his countryman, Marc Coma was hot on his heels and took second. It’s good that Barreda started the race with a good result but it’s very, very early in the game; and with Cyril Despres in third despite tire problems, it wouldn’t be wise to make any proclamations at this time. While the big boys are fighting for position, the privateers are having a grand time if this tweet from Kevin Muggleton is anything to go by. The former photographer and film maker for National Geographic finished the stage in 120th place, which isn’t bad at all. Mike Johnson was 139th and Peter Hardy was 154th.
— Kevin Muggleton (@KevinMuggleton) January 5, 2014
There was a bit of an upset in cars as Argentina’s Orlando Terranova Mini was beaten in the stage by #306 Carlos Sousa of Portugal with his Haval SUV, made by China’s Great Wall Motors. That team has been mentioned as one to watch for this year’s race. However, it’s a surprise to see them start with a win and wonder if they’ll be able to keep up the momentum. Any one of the five Minis and one Matador chasing behind will gladly volunteer to prevent that winning streak. #318 BJ Baldwin finished 92nd and #305 Robby Gordon is 133rd. Despite jumping the ramp in Rosario as is now his custom, the Gordini was plagued with problems and reached the end over 2½ hours behind the leader and carrying a 26:30 penalty.
The competition in trucks is hot with Kamaz Master’s #503 Ayrat Mardeev taking the stage win. Mardeev finished second overall in 2013 and was one of the toughest competitors for “Little Tsar” #500 Eduard Nikolaev. #504 Ales Loprais from the Czech Republic finished second. He’s the nephew of six-time Dakar winner Karel Loprais and is on a mission to follow in his uncle’s footsteps. Another racer with family pride on the line is Dutchman #501 Gérard De Rooy who remained a factor in fourth place, behind another Dutchman and Dakar veteran, #508 Marcel Van Vliet. Monday’s destination for the racers is San Rafael, over 700km away.
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