In the motorcycles, defending Dakar champion, Australian Toby Price rode his KTM to victory over Californian Honda Rider Ricky Brabec, another former KTM under winner Matthias Walkner, Kevin Benavides on a Honda, Sam Sunderland (KTM) and Pablo Quintanilla (Husqvarna). From a Southern African point of view on two wheels, Botswana ace Ross Branch rode his KTM home a fine fourteenth and SA rookie Aaron Mare ended 34th as he found his Dakar feet.
It was a good first day for the other Southern African riders, not least lady rookies Taye Perry and Kirsten Landman who rode their KTMs home 73rd and 95th respectively, no-assistance pair Stuart Gregory (KTM) was 86th and Wessel Bosman (Husqvarna) ended 135th, while Zimbabwe’s Graeme Sharp (KTM), who came in 93rd.
Former winners, Chilean Ignacio Casale and Pole Rafael Sonik topped the quad stage for the day ahead of the Czech Kubeinioa in a Yamaha rout. Unfancied Pole Maciej beat US rider Casey Currie to the Side by Side win, where Zimbabwean Conrad Rautenbach ended eleventh, while SA navigator Mike Horn had been fourth alongside Cyril Despres before the duo hit trouble to lose 50 minutes to drop back and end 20th. There was almost a turn-up for the books among the trucks too, as Russian Kamaz rookie Andon Shibalov held of Belarusian Siarhei Viazovich (MAZ) and Dutchan Janus van Kasteren’s Iveco.
As always, Dakar’s first day was most interesting with the ebb and flow as quicker riders who started a bit further back climb up the order, but Sunday’s result determines Monday’s starting order and that will better highlight who’s who, while the cars clearly experienced a tough day as the rapidly changing leaderboard so well proved. It was also a tough day for Jakub Przygonski stuck after Waypoint 3 and multiple Le Mans winner who retired after his RD Limited caught fire 65km into the special. In the bikes, frontrunners Barreda, Short, san Beveren and De Soultrait all lost time on the day, while Frenchman Willie Jobard dropped out of the race.
Tuesday’s second 367km Dakar 2020 day into the deep Arabian Desert from Al Wajh to Neom is the the first part of the Super Marathon stage, which also promises to be a significant navigational challenge.