South African privateers Thomas Rundle and Juan Mohr, competing in their first Dakar Rally after winning the Dakar Challenge in Botswana in 2013, made an immediate impression on the first day of the 9 500-kilometre 14-day race across Argentina and Chile on Sunday when they finished 49th on the 809-kilometre stage from Rosario to San Luis in Argentina after starting in 101st place.
They completed the 180-kilometre racing section in a time of 2h 51m 43s, 31m 7s behind the winning Haval of Carlos Sousa and Miguel Ramalho of Portugal who started seventh. Second were Orlando Terranova of Argentina and Paulo Filiza of Portugal (MINI) +11s and Nasser Al-Attiyah of Qatar and Lucas Cruz of Spain (MINI) +47s.
“It was an awesome experience finally getting to start the Dakar Rally and successfully complete the opening stage after all these months of preparation and hard work,” said Rundle. “Our DMack/Barden Toyota Hilux didn’t miss a beat and Juan and I found today’s 180-kilometre racing section quite similar to conditions we experience in South Africa. It was technical with a lot of twists and turns and heavy dust.
“We made good progress today under testing conditions after starting a long way back. With over 100 cars ahead of us it was always going to be tough and we’re happy to have survived. We’re looking forward to the challenge that lies ahead. We know it’s going to get tougher and we’ll be taking it one day at a time.
Monday’s 799-kilometre stage two from San Luis to San Rafael starts at 05:50 Argentina time (10:50 SA time) and consists of a 304-kilometre liaison section followed by a 43-kilometre racing section and final 62 kilometres of liaison to the overnight bivouac, where the first car is due at 15:50 (20:50). . It is the fastest special stage of the rally, at least for the first part, and will also see the drivers face the first dunes. In the last 100 kilometres of the racing section the grey dunes of Nihuil will provide a stern test of competitors’ technical skills.