The 2018 Dakar Rally is finally underway after 139 bikes, 92 cars, 49 quads and 44 trucks revved their engines on the start line in Lima.
Stage one out of 14 consisted of a 242km liaison from the Peruvian capital up the Pacific Coast to Pisco, where a 31km special stage took place.
It was a short but tactical start to the 40th edition of the legendary rally raid race, with drivers potentially not wanting to open the road on Sunday and leave a trail for their rivals to follow.
Sunday sees a 267km special stage looping around Pisco, with 90% of the route off-piste.
As he did last year, two-time winner Nasser Al-Attiyah put his foot to the floor right from the get go to win the opening stage of the race in his Toyota Hilux.
The Qatari opened up leads of more than two minutes over Stéphane Peterhansel and Carlos Sainz, and five minutes over Sébastien Loeb who struggled with a brake failure on his Peugeot 3008DKR Maxi just three kilometres into the special stage.
Al-Attiyah said: “I am very happy but tomorrow is another day. We are full of confidence.”
Loeb added: “We went very slow, trying to finish the stage. It was tricky, as I couldn’t brake! We just wanted to finish.”
British history maker Sam Sunderland has been sleeping in an oxygen tent to prepare for the race this year, and the Red Bull KTM Factory Team rider got his title defence off to a blistering start by posting the fastest time and winning the stage in front of Adrien van Beveren and Pablo Quintanilla. Teammate and 2016 winner Toby Price was more than three minutes back in 14th, with Laia Sanz coming home 12th.
Sunderland said: “There was a lot of excitement and hype coming into the race, it is good to be here. We go on the attack again tomorrow.”
Chilean Ignacio Casale, the 2014 winner and 2017 runner-up, got his race up and running with a confident victory by crossing the line one minute ahead of defending champion Sergey Karyakin. Frenchman Sébastien Souday took third.
Very little separated the top three trucks on stage one but it was Czech Aleš Loprais of the Tatra team who claimed the win, overcoming Martin van den Brink and 2017 champion Eduard Nikolaev in his Kamaz Master
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