Rally champion Nasser Al-Attiyah has topped the opening Lima – Pisco stage of the 2018 event, as Sebastien Loeb struggled with an early brake problem. Al-Attiyah completed the timed section of the stage in 21m51s in his four-wheel-drive Hilux car, and will thus have to open the road during the first proper marathon run of the event on Sunday.
Toyota Gazoo Racing teammate Bernhard ten Brinke clocked in as his nearest rival, 25 seconds off the pace.
Their trouble-free start to the event was in stark contrast to Loeb’s, the nine-time WRC champion ending up almost six minutes slower after his Peugeot 3008DKR Maxi developed a brake issue in the opening kilometres.
The Saturday stage, first of the five that comprise the Peruvian leg of the rally, was made up of a 242km road section between the ceremonial start in the capital and Pisco, and a 31km timed special traversing sand dunes around the latter.
Local hero Nicholas Fuchs, a WRC2 event winner, made up the top three in Stuttgart manufacturer Borgward’s BX7 car.
Rookie Bryce Menzies led the way for X-raid Mini’s all-new two-wheel-drive buggy, finishing four seconds behind Fuchs.
The two other Mini buggies in the field finished eighth and 13th, in the hands of Mikko Hirvonen and Yazeed Al-Rajhi respectively.
Former champion Nani Roma, who returned to the X-raid fold after a one-off Dakar appearance with Toyota, was the best of Mini’s four-wheel-drive John Cooper Works Rally cars in fifth.
He was only a second quicker than Toyota’s Giniel de Villiers, both slotting in within a minute of stage leader Al-Attiyah.
Loeb’s issue aside, Peugeot had a muted showing in the opening stage, as all four of its factory entrants missed the top 10.
Reigning champion Stephane Peterhansel, having opened the road, led the way for the manufacturer, finishing two minutes behind Al-Attiyah and just a few seconds up on squadmates Cyril Despres and Carlos Sainz.