After heavy showers that led to the cancellation of the first stage, the 2016 edition of the Dakar Rally finally got underway on Monday, with Sebastien Loeb, Toby Price, and Ignacio Casale winning in their respective vehicle categories.
The original 450 km route for bikes and quads between Villa Carlos Paz to Termas Rio Hondo was shortened to 354 km, while that of cars and trucks was reduced by 123 km to 387 km.
Bikes: Price takes win with late charge
KTM’s Toby Price made amendments for a lowly 16th place in the prologue with an impressive ride in the second stage. Price was particularly impressive in the latter part of the day, pipping Husqvarna's Ruben Faria by just two seconds in the overall standings.
Stefan Svitko and Matthias Walkner made it three KTMs in the top five, although the former was riding a customer bike. In between the two, Alain Duclos was classified fourth in the lead TVS entry, with a time of 3:55.02.
Sixth, seventh and eighth positions were occupied by Honda riders Joan Barreda Port, Paulo Goncalves (last year’s runner up) and Kevin Benavides respectively.
Indian cross-country rider CS Santosh was classified 91st, as he improved his position to 97th in the overall standings.
Cars: Loeb takes shock win on debut
The cars category threw up a big surprise as Dakar debutant and WRC legend Sebastien Loeb won his first ever stage, taking the overall lead with a time of 3:52.03.
Loeb led all through the stage, beating Peugeot teammate by 2:23. Vladimir Vasilyev finished a further 19 seconds adrift in the lead Toyota, followed by 2015 runner up Giniel de Villiers.
Mikko Hirvonen, another former WRC driver making his Dakar debut, also gave a positive first impression, finishing just over three minutes behind Ogier in fifth place.
However, things didn’t go quite as plan for last year’s winner Nasser Al-Attiyah or rally legend Carlos Sainz. The former finished a lowly eighth while Sainz was hampered by an engine stoppage, and currently occupies 14th place in the overall standings.
Quads: Casale leads the way
2014 Dakar winner Ignacio Casale took a clear victory in the quads category, winning the stage by a comfortable margin of 4 minutes from South Africa’s Brian Baragwanath.
The field was dominated by Yamaha riders, with quads from the Japanese brand occupying the top 11 positions. Among them was defending champion Rafal Sonik, who finished 6:48 behind winner Casale.
The highest among the Honda riders was Walter Nosiglia, who has already proved his credentials with a third place finish in only his second attempt at Dakar in 2015.