Riders went into battle for the first time today in the Dakar Rally after yesterday’s faux start to the event, and it was Portugal’s Ruben Faria striking first and taking the opening stage victory of this year’s event, leading home the 170-strong motorcycle field.
Faria and his KTM finished 29 seconds ahead of defending race champion and Red Bull KTM teammate Cyril Despres with Marc Coma, on another KTM, in third – a minute and 15 seconds off Faria’s pace.
A fourth KTM ridden by Spaniard Juan Pedrero Garcia ended today’s stage in fourth as the Austrian manufacturer dominated the first day of action. Then came the first non-KTM, the BMW ridden by Paulo Goncalves, Faria’s Portuguese countryman.
The first of the Americans crossed the line in sixth place today with Jonah Street off to a strong start in his fifth Dakar. Street finished seventh overall in last year’s race on a KTM, but has switched to a YZF450-based bike for this year’s edition.
Quinn Cody ended the day of his first Dakar Rally in 15th place on his Honda, the 34-year-old three-time winner of the Baja 1000 riding with support from Honda Europe.
“I managed to keep a good tempo from the beginning to the end,” Faria said on the Dakar website after the fourth stage win of his career. “This special stage looked very much like what I am used to seeing in Portugal. I am glad to know that in the end it paid out and I got the day’s best clock. I did better today than many great riders with different driving styles. It’s already a good point of reference. I am also very happy to see that my teammate Cyril Despres also made excellent time.”
Over a million people watched yesterday’s send off in Buenos Aires, Argentina, according to event promoters, with today’s stage taking riders from Victoria to Cordoba.