Four different manufacturers in the top four? Welcome to day one of the Dakar Rally as factory Honda’s Joan Barreda posted the fastest time of the day to lead the factory KTM of Marc Coma, the factory Yamaha of Cyril Despres and the factory Sherco of Alain Duclos as the first stage of the rally came to a close in Argentina.
With Honda, KTM, Yamaha and Sherco all in the top four, it was Honda’s Barreda who was the man of the moment has he stormed to the sixth stage win of his Dakar career, besting Red Bull KTM’s Coma by 37 seconds.
"I'm really happy with the first stage,” Barreda said. “At the beginning I had some trouble easing into the race due to a slight problem with the suspension, but afterwards everything went smoothly. We'll work on it to ride even faster tomorrow. I'll try to keep up this pace in the next few stages."
Coma, a three-time winner of the Dakar Rally, knows that the world’s toughest off-road race isn’t won on the opening day.
"First days at the Dakar are never easy,” Coma said. “It's difficult to find and maintain your pace straight away. So I took things fairly easy and, as the day wore on, I got the right feelings and found the right pace. All things considered, I'm happy because it's important to clear the first stage without running into trouble, and that's just what I did."
Defending race champion Despres ended the day third, a minute and 40 seconds behind Barreda and some 16 seconds ahead of the Sherca of Alain Duclos. Fifth place in the opening stage went to Paolo Goncalves on the second factory Honda, a tad over a minute clear of the second factory KTM of Francisco Lopez.
Tomorrow’s second stage will feature almost 450 miles of racing with the race set to hit the dunes for the first time as the race heads from San Luis to San Rafael in Argentina.