Yamaha-mounted Ruben Faria showed that local knowledge rules in the opening stage of the Dakar Rally, the Portuguese rider leading the way in his homeland just as he did a year ago.
Faria was the 202nd rider to leave the start but was the quickest to the finish, the 32-year-old braving the cold conditions to set the pace in one hour, 22 minutes and seven seconds on his privateer Yamaha.
“I decided to attack to the maximum because I knew that it was my day”, said Faria at the end of the timed section. “The stage is more sandy than last year, which makes me happy.”
Faria beat another Portuguese rider, Helder Rodrigues, also on a Yamaha, by 16 seconds. Frenchman David Casteu was initially classified third, 4:47 behind on the first of the KTMs, but had 20 seconds added to his time for an infringement, dropping him to fourth – behind Spaniard Isidre Esteve Pujol.
The factory KTMs of Cyril Despres and Marc Coma, two of the favorites for victory, came out of stage one in 10th and 13th, respectively.
The top American on day one was Jonah Street who ended up sixth, one spot better than Chris Blais.