The 2018 Dakar Rally is underway, and already, the competitor list is starting to shorten.
In fact, Joaquim Rodrigues, riding for the Hero factory team in his first Dakar, managed to crash only a few hundred metres into the first stage, reportedly earning himself a helicopter ride to the hospital at the 3 km mark. A couple other riders also supposedly crashed out, but official confirmation from the rally organizers is, as always, slow coming.
What is for sure is that the riders cannot let their guard down at any time this year. The first stage is often an easier section, but even without Marc Coma (former competitor, now in charge of route development) deciding to make the route more challenging, there’s the traffic in the transit sections. From KTM rider Matthias Walkner’s Facebook page:
… Right at the beginning of the liaison I got quite startled. here in Peru traffic has it’s own laws – or none. It is incredibly chaotic. I was very lucky. On the highway a parked car suddenly merged into traffic and a truck had to swerve. Suddenly I was between the truck and the guardrail! I grazed the guardrail with my knee and the truck with my elbow. Just made it. At least at that point I was wide awake …
Along with the crashees, some other riders saw disappointment today. Toby Price, who blew everyone else away in 2016, managed only a 14th-place finish today. It’s his first rally event since his huge crash in last year’s Dakar, so it may take him a stage or two to get up to speed.
There was also some speculation that even the stage winner, Sam Sunderland (KTM) was disappointed with his result, as starting first isn’t ideal on a dune stage—and that’s what riders face tomorrow.
The top five was rounded out by Adrien Van Beveren (Yamaha) in second, Pablo Quintanilla (Husqvarna) in third, Joan Barreda (Honda) in fourth and Xavier de Soultrait (Yamaha) in fifth. Those names are notable for two reasons: One, while Sunderland won the stage, no other KTM was in the top five, and that’s rare. Two, Honda’s Paulo Goncalves isn’t in that top five either—and that’s because he’s suffered a training accident and has been replaced by relatively unknown Ignacio Cornejo. That’s bad news for Big Red, as Goncalves was always Mr. Reliable for them, especially when compared to crash-prone Barreda, and always fought for a podium.
Stage 1 top 10 finishers
1). Sam Sunderland, KTM
2). Adrien Van Beveren, Yamaha, +00:00:33
3). Pablo Quintanilla, Husqvarna, +00:00:56
4). Joan Barreda Bort, Honda, +00:00:57
5). Xavier de Soultrait, Yamaha, +00:01:07
6). Matthias Walkner, KTM, +00:01:23
7). Franco Caimi, Yamaha, +00:01:31
8). Daniel Nosiglia Jager, KTM, +00:01:33
9). Antoine Meo, KTM, +00:01:49
10). Kevin Benavides, Honda, +00:01:53