Juan Pedrero Garcia was the unlikely hero of the first stage of the Dakar (454 km, starting in Asunción, Paraguay), taking the win on his Sherco.
It’s not that Garcia hasn’t demonstrated skill in the past, but the first day is almost always a duel between the bigger factory teams, and Sherco TVS is lucky to even get a couple podiums throughout the whole rally. You can bet David Casteau, the team’s new manager, is over the moon with this victory, and happy the team is still competitive without longtime stalwart Alain Duclos.
Casteau is likely a little less happy with his other factory rider, Adrian Metge, who managed to flood his bike in a waterhole in the same sort of maneuver that cost Laia Sanz so dearly in the 2016 rally; the boneheaded move put him in 124th for the day.
The Sherco team was lucky to get the win, as Yamaha’s Xavier de Soultrait was the rider who finished first, but a 60-second penalty nuked his lead, landing him in 10th place for the day.
Second place went to Ricky Brabec; the Honda factory rider is definitely a threat to grab stage podiums this year, as he has plenty of desert racing experience in the SCORE’s Baja series. Whether he can hold it up in the day-after-day slog of Dakar is another question.
Paulo Goncalves (Honda) was third, and Sam Sunderland was the top KTM, in fourth. Sunderland is a very competitive rider, and could be a threat to win the whole thing, if he doesn’t encounter more bad luck — but that seems to be his destiny, year after year.
Joan Barreda (Honda) was fifth, no doubt unhappy he hadn’t done his usual blaze to the front of the pack. However, he had a couple problems that slowed him down; once again, Bam Bam’s reckless style looks like it could cost him.
Last year’s winner, Toby Price (KTM), ended the day in 17th position. That was a bit of a surprise — he even finished behind Hero Speedbrain rider Joaquim Rodrigues. But don’t expect that trend to continue in the next few days.
The first stages are typically where the younger, inexperienced riders try to make their mark, often putting themselves out of the race in the process. Price will easily build a lead once the racing picks up.
Speaking of Speedbrain, this was the rally team’s first year partnering with Hero. The team was very happy with Rodrigues’ finish, and the whole Dakar scene could be in for some big changes if the Indian motorcycle manufacturing sector decides to take an interest in the rally.
Chinese manufacturer Zongshen saw less success; Thierry Behys finished 123rd on one of their new 450s, and the other four riders were close to the back of the pack. But all the bikes did finish, which is more than many doubters would have predicted.
Dakar, Stage 1 results and standings
1). Pedrero Garcia, Sherco TVS
2). Brabec, Honda +00:00:12
3). Goncalves, Honda, +00:00:26
4). Sunderland, KTM, +00:00:27
5). Barreda, Honda, +00:00:30
6). Walkner, KTM, +00:00:40
7). Metge, Honda, +00:00:46 (00:00:30 penalty)
8). Farres Guell, KTM, +00:00:46
9). Cervantes Montero, KTM, +00:00:54
10). de Soultrait, Yamaha, +00:00:58 (00:01:00 penalty)