He's started from where he left off. The opening Dakar stage has highlighted the talents of current champion Sam Sunderland. In the 31km SS, from Lima to Piscopo, a sort of warm-up ahead of what's to come later today, the KTM rider showed them all how's it done, setting a time of 20’56”. The Brit couldn't have hoped for more, having go away last due to the inverted start.
The race leader closed 32” ahead of his closest rival, or rather the Yamaha of Adrien Van Beveren, while third is the Husqvarna of Pablo Quintanilla (+55”). Honda is also there, with dreams of the highest step of the rostrum at this year's RAID. Their best man on day one was Joan Barreda, 56” from the front.
It might only be the first stage, but it's interesting to note how there are four different manufacturer in the top four. Frenchman Xavier de Soultrait is fifth on the Yamaha (+1’06”), followed by the KTM of Austrian Matthias Walkner, who Botturi sees as the favourite.
Surprises on day once include Bolivian Daniel Nosiglia, who set the eighth fastest time behind Argentinian Franco Caimi, while the Honda of Kevin Benavides places tenth. The winner of the 2016 Dakar, Toby Price, finds himself four places further back, returning after having fractured his femur in last year's edition.
The fastest of the Italian contingent was Alessandro Botturi, who closed the SS in 35th place, 5'37" from the front. On day one there is no point taking any risks on day one though. The same goes for Jacopo Cerutti, seven positions behind his fellow countryman.
A disappointing Saturday for Jurgen Droessinger. The German fractured his wrist following an accident involving a SUV. Even worse for Joaquim Rodrigues, who was transported via helicopter to the medical centre after a bad crash
The second stage gets underway today, 278 km in total, of which 267 make up the SS.