The New Year's Day gave warm welcomes to all participants of the Dakar rally. Ales Loprais opened it on the same position as last year: 2nd.
The initial special was 222 kilometers long. Even before the start of the car special it was hit by heavy rains, which made the surface slippery. The organisers made a good balance between fast and technical sections. and the best pilots praised it well. Especially in the final part, the track was particularly slidy for trucks, which even placed greated demands on focus and concentration of the pilots. Even a slight mistake could cause leaving the track and even wreck all hopes in the rally. Ales Loprais started the special 5th with the starting number 504. At WP1, it was Gerard de Rooy to clock the fastest time, only 14 seconds ahead of Chagin, Ales was 3rd, only 3 seconds behind the Russian. At km 72, de Rooy stopped and Ales took over his position, staying second for the remaining part of the special and maintaining a tiny one-minute lead over Kabirov, anothe elite Kamaz pilot.
So, the opening test was driven by Ales at a very solid pace. Ales finished just between Chagin and Kabirov who is being persued by the young Eduard Nikolaev. Ales finished 4m41s behind Chagin and 1m11s ahead of Kabirov. Right behind Kabirov and Nikolaev, it was two more Tatra trucks of Andre Azevedo and Marek Spacil. A surprise in the standings came 9th with Matthias Behringer on a production MAN. Overall, the rally started for Ales exactly it di last year. Hopefully the further process of the race will be different from Dakar 2010...
"It was a beautiful stage and definitely not an easy one at all. Sometimes it was with a bit of adrenaline when Tatra jumped 20 metres long after a jump at 130 kph. The second place is a nice opening but only an opening. we must keep in mind the race is 16 days long and anything can happen any time. We must stay focused," Ales Loprais said.
A huge disappointment came for Dutch fans as three of elite drivers from the Netherlands were forced to quit already in the opening stage. First it was Wuf Van Ginkel who had an accident on the highway, going to the start of the special. the truck was damanegd badly and Van Ginkel sadly was not able to race at all. then, it was Hans Bekx who tipped his truck on the side. Last but not least, Gerard de Rooy, one of the greatest contenders for the Kamaz squad, made a jump and renewed his back injury from Silk Way Rally 2009. A sad end for a driver who presented brand-new trucks for his comeback and was definitely one of the favorites.
"We feel very sorry for our friend Gerard de Rooy. He was definitely a tough rival but also someone we discussed with sthe strategy how to face the Kamaz team. in this battle we lost a close ally but of course we cannot give up. Gerard and both hans and wuf will be surely missed, they had much to say in this year's Dakar," Ales added.
So, a bit of nervousness of a kind of sprinters in the opening week of the Tour de France. The next special is totally new. Keep your fingers crossed for us!
-source: Jiri Vintr