Although the initial stages of this year’s Dakar looked fairly approachable on paper, the mixture of terrains proved to be a challenge for tournament veterans, including last year’s leaders Nasser Al-Attiyah and Carlos Sainz.
Due to the rocky nature of the stage that took competitors from Jeddah to Al Wajh, some competitors were delayed by punctures which lead to a loss of several minutes. On top of this, the coastal winds did not make liaison any easier.
Leading the pack of the first stage is current Lithuanian rally champion Vaidotas Žala and co-driver Saulius Jurgelenas at the wheel of their Agrorodeo X-Raid Mini. Stéphane Peterhansel, Carlos Sainz (piloting the two JCW X-Raid Minis) and Nasser Al-Attiyah (In his Toyota Gazoo Racing Hilux) are still within winning distance, unlike Jakub Przygoński, who was knocked out of contention for the general classification just a few kilometres into the race.
Fernando Alonso who makes his debut for Toyota Gazoo Racing slots in at 11th place with a 15 minute 27 second gap on Žala. Giniel De Villiers finished the stage at 14th with a 23 minute 16 second delay on first place.