Nasser Al Attiyah offered
Toyota its 5th stage victory in the history of the Dakar and the third since
the arrival of the Hiluxes after the special win in 2013 by Giniel de Villiers
and another in 2015 by Yazeed Al Rajhi.
Nasser did not wait long to
demonstrate that he made the right choice on swapping Mini for the Toyota which
he already is mastering. The Qatari struck from the start to win his 26th stage
on the Dakar, an ideal way to start his new partnership with the Japanese constructor
and put the pressure on Peugeot. Xavier de Soultrait was the quickest biker but
could lose the benefit of this first stage victory to Juan Pedrero due to a
penalty he is likely to receive for speeding.
For the first time in its
history, the Dakar has visited Paraguay and to launch its 2017 edition from the
capital Asuncion for a sole and single stage with a 39-km special. As such,
Paraguay has become the 29th country to welcome the Dakar, boasting a superb
setting with lush jungle-like vegetation favoured by a tropical climate. This
makes for a technically tricky route and trial-like tracks which in particular
enabled Xavier Pons, 2nd in the car category, to express his skill in handling
What a performance from Xavier de Soultrait!
After withdrawing in 2016, he quite simply grabbed his first special stage
victory ahead of two other outsiders, Juan Pedrero (Sherco) and Ricky Brabec
(Honda). However, the Frenchman exceeded the speed limit on the link stage and
is likely to receive a penalty which will put Pedrero at the top of the general
standings. Michael Metge completed the day’s Top 4, while Joan Barreda grabbed
the 7th best time despite a problem in a ford. In the quad race, Marcelo Medeiros
was victorious with a lead of more than one minute, while local favourite
Nelson Sanabria finished the stage in third place in front of his countrymen
and women. In the car category, Nasser Al-Attiyah finished his first stage
behind the wheel of a Toyota with a victory. He literally played with fire,
however, as flames started to lick around his Hilux a short way from the
finishing line. The leading Peugeot, driven by Carlos Sainz, took fourth place
with Sébastien Loeb in sixth. In the truck race, Martin Kolomy let the power of
his brand new Tatra Phoenix do the talking, to win the first stage just in
front of Dutchman Ton Van Genugten.
Xavier de Soultrait said after
his win on Day 1, “Winning a stage in the Dakar is incredible and it’s already
a step upwards. However, it’s not my ultimate goal: I want to win the Dakar.
Why not this year? I’m putting the pieces of the puzzle in place little by
little and things are starting to take shape!”
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