Chris Blais finished seventh on his Red Bull KTM. Fellow American, Jonah Street finished mere seconds ahead for sixth and a good day overall for the US riders.
Stage 1 victory went to local rider Ruben Faria who bested the rest of the Dakar competitors on his privateer Yamaha. The Portuguese rider finished second on the opening stage last year while aboard a KTM. Faria topped his competitors in a 117 km special stage connected by liaisons of 115 km and 232 km. The terrain was covered in deep sand which seemed to play into the favor of local riders and blue machinery as another Portuguese man, Helder Rodrigues, pulled in behind Faria on his Yamaha for a hometown sweep. Rodrigues finished in 1:22’23, only 16 seconds behind his countryman.
Isidre Esteve Pujol finished the podium trio at five minutes back on his Gauloises KTM. Frenchman David Casteu secured fourth and Honda-mounted Thierry Bethys, also from France, finished fifth. Reigning champion, Marc Coma, finished 13th after starting very last off the line. The Spaniard rode conservatively to save energy in the early goings knowing full well that it’s going to get much harder in the coming days.
The US contingent put in a solid day with Jonah Street landing in sixth on his Pai-Rally Pan American KTM and Chris Blais followed him by 14 seconds for Red Bull KTM. Both riders are within six minutes of the leader.
Isidre Esteve Pujol (Gauloises KTM) – 3rd
I fell off on a fast bend and then just three corners from the end I stalled the bike. It took me at least a minute to start the engine again. Apart from that it was a good warm up, you just had to be careful overtaking the amateurs.
Marc Coma (Repsol KTM) – 13th
It was a tough stage. The sand was very soft and that made it pretty hard work. I didn’t want to spend too much energy on a first stage. You can’t win the Dakar here only lose a lot of time.
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Stage 1 Results:
1. Faria, Yam
2. Rodrigues, Yam
3. Esteve Pujol, KTM
4. Casteu, KTM
5. Bethys, Hon
6. Street, KTM
7. Blais, KTM
8. Ullevalseter, KTM
9. Planet, KTM
10. Despres, KTM