Defending Dakar Champion Richard Sainct, on the factory-backed BMW, grabbed the early lead in the first day of competition at the Paris-Dakar Rally. Sainct survived a tough day of dust and tricky navigation to claim the lead on January 6.
"I think the main reason I won the special (test) was because I didn't get lost once," the Frenchman said. "I'm delighted to be starting first tomorrow because it looks to be very dusty."
Finishing 40 seconds behind Sainct was Spanish KTM rider Juan Roma. Another two minutes back of the leader in third is Spaniard Jordi Arcaraon, on a KTM. Riding the BMW 900 factory twin is American Jimmy Lewis, who finished out the day in fourth. Expected to struggle in the tight stuff with the big twin, Lewis said he is pleasantly surprised at how easy the bike was to ride under such conditions.
Fabrizio Meoni (KTM) and Oscar Gallardo (BMW) round out the top six in the motorcycle class. Finland's Kari Tiainen (KTM) is seventh followed by Italy's Giovanni Sala (KTM), while former MX World Champion Austrian Heinz Kinigadner (KTM) is ninth.
A five-time Dakar winner in the motorcycle class, Stephane Peterhansel currently holds down seventh place in the auto class.
Tomorrow the rally leaves Senegal for Kayes in Mali, roughly 223 miles - 131 miles of which are special stages.