The Dakar rally has got underway in South America, with Mini coming out on top in stage one and Team Peugeot Total making a strong return to the race.
A 175 kilometre stage marked the opening day of the rally. This was followed by the longest individual road section of the 17 day event, at 519 kilometres, as drivers headed to the overnight bivouac in Villa Carlos Paz.
The end point will be familiar to fans of rally as the location where the Argentinian round of the World Rally Championship is held. In fact, some of the roads used in the Dakar rally also make up part of the Rally Argentina route.
Teams, drivers and cars were tested during the opening stage as they came up against a wide variety of terrain and technical sections of the track.
Different teams will have varying goals. For example, Mini is aiming for another consecutive win overall on the track. Team Peugeot Total, on the other hand, has a more modest goal of just getting the car to the finish in Buenos Aires on January 17th. To do this, it will have to cover 9,000 kilometres on a very tricky route that will take it through Chile and Bolivia.
The car used in the race by Team Peugeot Total is an all-new Peugeot 2008 DKR, which is powered by a three litre twin-turbo engine. During the first day, the team were encouraged to find that the car encountered no mechanical problems.
On day one, Mini took first and second place. Driving the winning car was Nasser Al-Attiyah from Qatar and the French driver Matthieu Baumel. In second place, two Argentinian drivers were in the car: Orlando Terranova and Ronnie Graue.
A third Mini car made it to fifth place. This was driven by the Polish racer Krzysztof Holowczyc and Xavier Panseri from France.
Meanwhile, Team Peugeot scored highly too. In eighth place was Carlos Sainz and Lucas Cruz from Spain.
Sainz is a two-time world rally champion and won the Dakar Rally in 2010. After day one of the Dakar Rally 2015, he said that he was very happy with the result and said that it has been a good start.
He said: “Our key objective was to get through the stage with no problems and we’ve been able to do that. We’ve been able to judge our pace and it was good, even though yesterday’s stage was not especially suited to two-wheel drive cars.”
Only two places behind, in tenth, was another Peugeot car. Driving this vehicle was French drivers J-P Cottret and Stephane Peterhansel, who is considered to be the most successful competitor in the history of the event with 11 wins under his belt.
Yet even Peterhansel confessed that he was nervous during stage one. He added: “For us it was all completely new: first start, first stage, and we have never driven on exactly these types of surfaces before. But it was a nice surprise: the pace was good, especially the top speed.”
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