Toyota Gazoo Racing South Africa driver Nasser Al-Attiyah made an impressive start to this year’s Dakar Rally, winning the first special stage by a decisive margin. The Qatari, driving a Toyota Hilux, beat the X-raid Mini of Carlos Sainz — two-time WRC champ and father of F1 driver Carlos Sainz Jr. — by nearly 2 minutes in Pisco, Peru.
Behind the ultra-experienced duo of Al-Attiyah and Sainz, three somewhat surprising names filled out the top 5. Jakub Przygonski (Mini) lies 2 minutes behind the stage winner, and several seconds in front of Vladimir Vasilyev (Toyota) and Yazeed Al Rajhi (Mini).
Stephane Peterhansel, Cyril Despres and Nani Roma not really hit top gear during the first half of the special and respectively run in 7th, 10th and 11th in the provisional standings.
Further back, rally legend Sebastien Loeb — returning to the Dakar behind the wheel of a 2017 Peugeot 3008 entered by the private team PH Sport – had a troubled first stage. Sand has never been one of the Frenchman’s favorite terrain, and he lost more than 6 minutes to the day’s stage winner and is 13th.
America’s Robby Gordon finished 21st and is 8m30s behind.