Al Attiyah Toyota leads Pons’ Ford home
Toyota’s Nasser Al Attiyah stormed to victory in the Dakar Prologue in a triumphant day for South African motorsport near Asunción in Paraguay, as the Red Bull Gazoo Toyota driver beat another SA-built car, Spaniard Xavi Pons’ Ford to second, with countryman Nani Roma third in another made-in-South Africa Toyota. Pons enjoyed an excellent prologue, actually closing in on Attiyah toward the end of the stage.
A third Spaniard, Carlos Sainz was fourth in the provisional results in the best of the Peugeots, with SA hero Giniel de Villiers fifth for Toyota; then came the man who dominated the opening stages last year, Sebastien Loeb only sixth for Peugeot, suggesting a shift in form in the great event this year.
There was drama at the finish for Qatari Al Attiyah, who beat Pons by 24 seconds, when the winning Toyota caught fire, but it was quickly extinguished and the Hilux was towed back to the bivouac by teammate de Villiers.
Roma another 4 seconds further back from Pons at the finish and 8 seconds clear of Sainz’ Peugeot, which finished 9 seconds in front of de Villiers. He was 14 seconds clear of Loeb, with Yazeed Al Rajhi next up in the fastest of the Minis and Cyril Despres close behind in another Peugeot. The other Southern African crew, Zim driver Conrad Rautenbach and SA lad Rob Howie were provisionally 15th in another Toyota.
The motorcycles produced a surprise as little fancied French Yamaha rider Xavier de Soultrait displaced Spain’s provisional leader, Sherco TVS-mounted Juan Pedrero Garcia to steal a 2-second opening stage victory. Honda trio, US rider Ricky Brabec, Frenchman Michel Metge and Portuguese rider Paolo Goncalves and KTM-mounted Brit Sam Sunderland rounded off the top six.
2-wheeler favourite, Spain’s Joan Barreda Bort ended sixth on another Honda, while reigning champion Toby Price was a lowly 17th, 1 minute and 25 seconds off the lead pace. Of the Southern African two-wheelers David Thomas enjoyed a positive Prologue to end up 44th on his Husqvarna, while Botswana rider Vince Crosbie ended 69th and SA men Joey Evans was provisionally 107th and Walter Terblanche 110th.
Paraguayan Nelson Augusto Sanbria Galeano set local hearts ablaze when he initially led the quad race, but he was ultimately beaten to third by Brazilian Marcello Medieras and Argentine Gaston Gonzalez in a Yamaha 1-2-3. Come back later for the truck results.
Competitors then trekked down to cross the Argentine border to the first bivouac at Rasistencia, with Tuesday’s route set to travel east along another long 802km open section own to San Miguel de Tucamàn including a 275km racing stage.
Motorsport Media.com will cover the action as it happens in conjunction with Imperial Toyota - come back here to follow the action as it happens tomorrow and throughout Dakar 2017.
Note - all results provisional - race still running at time of writing...