Tamarugal Racing's Francisco Lopez won today's opening stage of the Dakar Rally on his KTM by topping Holland's Frans Verhoeven by a second in the short special stage at the end of the run from Lima, Peru to Pisco. The stage win was the seventh of Lopez's Dakar career.
With Lopez leading Yamaha of Netherlands' Verhoeven by just a second after the first day of competition, Chilean Pablo Quintanilla sits third on his Artisa Racing Honda CRF450X. Quintanilla is just five seconds off Lopez and six seconds ahead of countryman Patricio Cabrera, the second rider from Chili in the top five riding a Kawasaki.
Race favorite and defending champion Cyril Despres ended the opening day of this year's rally in fifth place and just 13 seconds off the lead. He is some four seconds ahead of his Red Bull KTM teammate Ruben Faria.
Red Bull KTM's Kurt Caselli had a smooth first day in the rally, the AMA Hare & Hound Champion ending the day in 32nd place and an even minute off the leader. Caselli was 17 spots ahead of countryman Honda's Johnny Campbell, the Californian ending day one in 49th place.
The race gets going in earnest tomorrow with some 150 miles of racing.