FARIA ON A ROLL ... SAINZ RIGHT ON TIME ...
The Portuguese rider achieves the uncommon performance of getting his second consecutive stage victory in the first day of race of the 2011 edition of the Personal Dakar Argentina Chile! Ruben Faria, the winner of the 14th and last stage in 2010, started this year's raid with a victory... ahead of three other KTM riders. In the car category, Carlos Sainz was master of the road and took a short lead on Peterhansel and Al-Attiyah. Times are already tough for Gordon, Roma and Chicherit
In 2010, he left the Dakar with a feeling of full accomplishment after helping Cyril Despres win the race and winning the very last special stage on the road to Buenos Aires. A little less than a year later, Ruben Faria is still racing with the same wingman mission and he took on the task zealously and efficiently. Intent on sticking as closely as possible to his leader in the rankings, the Portuguese who had started in the 11th position today managed to tease four contenders on the way and crossed the finish line with the best time. The duet seems pretty close to perfection as Cyril Despres ends the day with the second fastest clock and finishes 28'' behind Faria.
However, the competition is pretty close as their "best enemy" Marc Coma -- in charge of opening the road this morning -- is only 1'15'' behind Faria, and 46'' behind Despres. The Catalan can also be proud of his new wingman and ally, as Juan Pedrero -- promoted this year to the position of single support to Coma -- finishes 4th of the day's special stage. Hence, as of tomorrow morning, the man will also be able to position himself as close as possible to his leader, to intervene in case of trouble. The hierarchy now established between Victoria and Cordoba also provides some indication about the KTM wizardry that has allowed the team to find the operating recipe for its brand new 450cc. Indeed, the Austrian firm has achieved the four first places in the day's rankings. The contending bikes -- which are a good minute behind them -- are the BMW, Yamaha and Aprilia, respectively driven by Goncalves (5th), Street (6th) and Lopez (7th).
For the top quad artists, the day was pretty eventful. It started pretty badly for title holder Marcos Patronelli who had already lost more than two hours before his start time on the special stage! The Argentine -- who was exceptionally authorized to enter the special stage that late -- might receive some pretty serious penalties for the late start but all his hopes of victory had already vanished in training when he injured himself about a month ago. He will most certainly let his brother Alejandro (5th) battle against Josef Machacek, who was the fastest today. As for Rafal Sonik, he will not have the opportunity to partake in the fight: after falling, the Pole had to withdraw with a hand injury.
Carlos Sainz was not really scared when he started on this Dakar behind the wheel of his Race Touareg III. Since he won the last edition of the rally raid, the Spaniard also added a victory on the Silk Way to his track record. He is starting his Latin American journey with a bar set pretty high. Starting first, Sainz was never caught by Peterhansel. Despite wiper problems that prevented him from racing at full speed through a stage troubled by some rain storms, he gets the best time of the day, 1'31'' ahead of the X-Raid Team leader. Nasser Al Attiyah stays close to the lead duet with a 2'16'' delay, a margin almost identical to the one that separated the two men at the end of the rally-raid last year (2'12'').
Their contenders were not spared by this first warming-up stage. If Miller (VW), De Villiers (VW) and Holowczyc (BMW X-Raid) did defend their odds pretty well, Robby Gordon lost -- in one stage -- what he expected to lose before entering Chile, i.e. a good ten minutes. And the loss is even more painful for Joan "Nani" Roma. A faulty demisting system in his Nissan pick-up was a serious handicap for him. Roma finished with a delay of more than 17 minutes. Chances of him finishing on the podium are now pretty far for former Dakar winner in the bike category. The debuts of the Mini Countryman of Guerlain Chicherit have also been troubled. If the mountain man already feared the trouble linked to the cooling system, he did not expect trouble to show so early and so badly. After stopping several times on this special stage, he has already lost almost one hour against Sainz and will have a particularly stressful Dakar if mechanical problems keep popping up.
The damage done is even worse for day one in the truck category, especially for the Dutch. Wulfert Van Ginkel, who somersaulted on the motorway, could not even start the rally raid. And, more importantly, Gerard De Rooy, for his return to the competition after his injury on the Silk Way Rally in 2009, paid -- once again -- a high price for precipitation. At km 72 his truck lifted off the ground and the impact of the landing immediately resurrected terrible back pain that led De Rooy to withdrawal. So Ales Loprais will be the only capable of playing trouble-maker against the Kamaz team that has already put two of its trucks and drivers at the top of the rankings: Vladimir Chagin and Firdaus Kabirov. This is the 57th stage victory for the "Czar" on a Dakar.