Dakar 2018, Stage 1: Sunderland opens title defence with win

Reiigning champion Sam Sunderland topped the opening stage of the 2018 Dakar Rally in the bikes category, establishing an early lead of 32 seconds. The opening stage of the 2018 event took competitors from the start point in the Peruvian capital of Lima south towards Pisco, with 242km of liaison followed by a brief 31km timed section.

Sam Sunderland

Yamaha rider Xavier de Soultrait headed up the timesheets for much of the stage with a best time of 22m02s, which stood until FIM Cross Country Rallies champion Pablo Quintanilla (Husqvarna) went 11 seconds faster.

Quinanilla’s reign in the top spot proved brief, as Adrien van Beveren (Yamaha) and then Sunderland (KTM) both went faster, the latter setting the best time of the day with a 20m56s.

That was 32s quicker than van Beveren in second, and left Quintanilla 55s down in third.

Honda rider Joan Barreda, one of the pre-event favourites, was fourth quickest, just one second behind Quintanilla, while de Soultrait was demoted to fifth, 1m06s off the lead.

Sunderland’s factory KTM teammate Matthias Walkner was sixth-fastest, ahead of Franco Caimi (Yamaha), Daniel Nosiglia (KTM), Antoine Meo (KTM) and Kevin Benavides (Honda).

Former bikes champion Toby Price was the slowest of the four Red Bull-backed works KTM riders in 14th, 3m20s down on Sunderland.

The opening stage didn’t pass entirely without drama, as Portuguese rider Joaquim Rodrigues (Hero) had to be evacuated by helicopter after suffering a nasty crash after launching off a high dune.

Casale tops quads opener

Chilean rider Ignacio Casale topped the opening stage for quads, recording a time of 27m32s.

Casale, the winner of the 2015 event, was a minute quicker than his closest adversary, reigning category champion Sergey Karyakin. Sebastien Souday was a further minute and a half down, making up an all-Yamaha top three.

A number of expected frontrunners lost significant chunks of time on the short stage, with Marcelo Medeiros, Alexis Hernandez and 2015 podium finisher Walter Nosiglia all dropping over 10 minutes.

Standings after Stage 1 (top 10):

Source: Motorsport.com

1 Sam SunderlandKTM20m56s
2 Adrien van BeverenYamaha+32s
3 Pablo QuintanillaHusqvarna+55s
4 Joan BarredaHonda+56s
5 Xavier de SoultraitYamaha+1m06s
6 Matthias WalknerKTM+1m22s
7 Franco CaimiYamaha+1m30s
8 Daniel NosigliaKTM+1m32s
9 Antoine MeoKTM+1m48s
10 Kevin BenavidesHonda+1m52s