You can't win the Dakar on the first day but you can lose it. Yesterday much of the field lost the Dakar, including many of the big names. Meanwhile a leader has emerged that had even legendary rally commentator Carlton Kirby saying "where'd he come from."
In the cars it was the man in orange who was first to crack, not even making it to the stage start before being halted by a problem (though I haven't found a conclusive explanation of what the problem was). By the time he finally started he was already 26 minutes behind, what many would call a "death sentence" for one's Dakar hopes on the first day. Any of the more faithful fans hoping Gordon would pull a Lazarus officially had their hopes crushed three hours later as car after car crossed the finish line while the orange big wheel remained missing. By the time Gordon finally finished, slowed (and repeatedly stopped) by vapor-locking and overheating, he had lost another two hours and with it the 2014 Dakar. It's going to be a long night of troubleshooting for his service crew.
Things weren't much better for the rest of Team America, as vapor lock and other fuel issues plagued the fleet. Peter Hajas in the Brenthel buggy had vapor lock issues as well, finishing four hours down. Both team Vigouroux cars also faltered, Chicherit losing fuel pressure and dropping over 78 minutes, and Baldwin losing a fuel pump and with it 52 minutes. Surprisingly it was the "too big" and "too heavy" three seat Jimco Durango of El Martillo Racing that did the best among the North American entries. At the end of the day Matthew Cambell, just running a steady pace, finished 31 minutes back of the stage winner.
Now for the pointy end of the field. What has a Mitsubishi motor, an Isuzu body, Toyota suspension, a Chinese badge, and the first stage win of the 2014 Dakar? The Great Wall Motors Haval H8 of Carlos Sousa. The Dakar veteran drove his potluck of a car through the twisty 112 mile stage in an impressive 2 hours 20 minutes, beating the Mini of Orlando Terranova by a mere 11 seconds, with the third place Mini of Al-Attiyah another 36 seconds back. Sousa said his extra speed came from a mechanical failure. The vents designed to take the heat away from the engine clogged, forcing the hot air into the cabin. According to Sousa temperatures climbed to an unbearable 150° F, causing him to push harder just so he could be done and get out of the car.
Behind Sousa Minis took five of the top ten positions, with Terranova, Al-Attiyah, and Roma all finishing in the top 5 and Peterhansel (slowed by a puncture) and Holowczyc both finishing in the top 10. Carlos Sainz was the sole defender of the 2WD buggy on the opening day, finishing in fifth despite the stage being the twistiest Dakar stage El Matador had ever seen (read: pretty much buggy kryptonite). Toyota driver Ginel De Villiers lost power steering (the worst thing you want on a 100 mile WRC-style stage) and as a result finished in 27th. Fortunately his teammate Leeroy Poulter fared better, finishing in ninth.
CAR RESULTS, STAGE 1
1) #306 Sousa (PRT, Haval) - 2h20m36s
2) #307 Terranova (ARG, Mini) - +0:00:11
3) #301 Al-Attiyah (QAT, Mini) - +0:00:47
4) #304 Roma (ESP, Mini) - +0:01:15
5) #303 Sainz (ESP, SMG) - +0:04:03
6) #300 Peterhansel (FRA, Mini) - +0:04:21
7) #309 Holowczyc (POL, Mini) - +0:04:21
8) #315 Lavieille (FRA, Haval) - +0:05:42
9) #323 Poulter (ZAF, Toyota) - +0:05:57
10) #325 Van Loon (NLD, Ford) - +0:06:02
51) #348 Campbell (CAN, Jimco) - +0:31:27
91) #395 Harris (GBR, Race2Recovery) - +0:52:26
92) #318 Baldwin (USA, Jefferies) - +0:52:30
114) #320 Chicherit (FRA, Jefferies) - +1:18:28
133) #305 Gordon (USA, HST) - +2:08:06
139) #346 Hajas (USA, Brenthel) - +4:01:02
140) #424 Gott (GBR, Race2Recovery) - +4:25:05
In the bikes it is no longer KTM's show as there are four different makes in the top 5. Spaniard Joan Barreda Bort, favorite to shut down Coma and Despres' private game of trophy hot potato, drew first blood, proving he and Honda are serious about their effort this year. Marc Coma, coming back from his 2013 absence due to injury, showed he was by no means rusty, coming home in second overall, just 37 seconds back. Third was, surprise surprise, Cyril Despres on his new Yamaha. It may be a new team and a new bike, but Cyril is still Cyril and Cyril want trophy. Just 16 seconds behind Cyril was Alain Duclos on his Sherco (yeah, I've never heard of them either), then the manufacturers repeat themselves: Honda, KTM, Sherco, Yamaha, Hond- WAIT! WHAT'S THIS IN TENTH? A "SPEEDBRAIN?!" I have no idea what that is or where it's from, but now I want one so I can cruise the country side on a Speedbrain, stop a biker bars and tell everyone I have a Speedbrain. Man, and I thought Gas Gas was a great bike name.
Bike Results, Stage 1:
1) #003 Barreda Bort (ESP, Honda) - 2h25m31s
2) #002 Coma (ESP, KTM) - +0:00:37
3) #001 Despres (FRA, Yamaha) - +0:01:40
4) #022 Duclos (FRA, Sherco) - +0:01:56
5) #010 Gonçalves (PRT, Honda) - +0:02:25
6) #005 Lopez Contardo (CHL, KTM) - +0:03:24
7) #023 Pedrero Garcia (ESP, Sherco) - +0:03:47
8) #017 Metge (FRA, Yamaha) - +0:04:33
9) #018 Sunderland (GBR, Honda) - +0:04:33
10) #021 Botturi (ITA, Speedbrain!) - +0:04:48
In the trucks it's first blood to Mother Russia as the Kamaz of Mardeev won the opening stage. Despite this it's by no means a runaway for the stalwart manufacturer as, like in the bikes, there are four different teams in the top four, all of them within 93 seconds of the lead. Ten seconds behind Mardeev was new father Ales Loprais in his Tatra, who dedicated the podium stage finish to his days-old son. Van Vliet showed this could well be a MAN's world as he brought his MAN in just eleven seconds behind Loprais. De Rooy, not one for WRC-style roads, finished fourth in his Iveco, and 2013 champion Nikolaev rounded out the top 5 in his Kamaz
Truck Results, Stage 1:
1) #503 Mardeev (RUS, Kamaz) - 2h46m52s
2) #504 Loprais (CZE, Tatra) - +0:00:10
3) #508 Van Vliet (NLD, MAN) - +0:00:21
4) #501 De Rooy (NLD, Iveco) - +0:01:33
5) #500 Nikolaev (RUS, Kamaz) - +0:04:00
6) #516 Vila Roca (ESP, Iveco) - +0:06:56
7) #545 Shibalov (RUS, Kamaz) - +0:07:05
8) #507 Stacey (NLD, Iveco) - +0:08:09
9) #513 Valtr (CZE, Liaz) - +0:09:18
10) #511 Van Ginkel (NLD, Ginaf) - +0:10:31
Day 2: San Luis to San Rafel
Day 2 started with another early morning and another long transit. Bikes once again got on the road at 4:30 AM local (2:30 AM Eastern), with the cars heading out 80 minutes later. This is the first day the competitors face the massive South American sand dunes, with 40 miles of dune in the second half of the stage. This is also the first time the different classes will take different routes. The bikes and quads will be doing the shortest distance at 223 stage miles, while the trucks do 249 miles and cars do the most at 269 miles. Surface changes, dunes, and a 4,000 foot climb near the midpoint will keep competitors on their toes today.
Stage start times:
•Bikes/Quads: 9:00 AM local (7:00 AM Eastern)
•Cars: 10:55 AM local (8:55 AM Eastern)
•Trucks: 2:18 PM local (12:18 PM Eastern)
For live tracking of competitors on stage 2 you can use the official Dakar tracker HERE
All photos via Dakar.com