Day 1

Attiyah, Sanders stay ahead as Day 1 chaos erupts behind

Dakar 2022 bared its teeth early as Sunday’s Day 1 proved chaotic in the Saudi Arabian desert around H’ail. Saturday prologue winners, Qatari Nasser Al Attiyah and Matthieu Baumel’s Gazoo Hilux and Aussie Gas Gas rider Daniel Sanders remained on top. But the challenging 333 km route proved more than just a challenge, including for several Southern African competitors behind.

Attiyah dominated off ideal start position

Al Attiyah and Baumel set the pace from the get-go off their ideal starting position. But they were kept honest most of the morning by Swedish rookie DTM star Mattias Ekström and Emil Bergkvist. They delivered unexpected pace out of their petrol-electric Audi Sport RS Q e-tron. Both leading crews later drew away from Saudi home hero Yazeed Al-Rajhi and Michael Orr’s Hilux.

Behind them, Carlos Sainz Sr. and Lucas Cruz’s second electric Audi closed in on Al Rajhi. After doing battle with the SA-built Century CR6s of Brian Baragwanath and Leonard Cremer and Brazilians Marcelo Gastaldi and Cadu Sachs. Nani Roma and Alex Bravo’s BRX Hunter and the Hiluxes of Dutchman Bernhard ten Brinke and Sébastien Delaunay and SA Gazoo crew Giniel de Villiers and Dennis Murphy were also in the thick of that battle.

But there was still much drama in store. SA Toyota crew Henk Lategan and Brett Cummings lost three hours with a broken wheel. And a nightmare started to unfold for Audi as Stéphane Peterhansel Edouard Boulanger’s car lost its left rear corner around mid distance. Then Ekstrom lost an hour and Sainz two, but they were not alone. Baragwanath and Roma lost over an hour in the last two sectors, most of them lost. Al Rajhi, Sainz, Ten Brinke and Gastaldi were also all delayed.

Loeb ended a surprised second!

All of which left Attiyah to lead a bemused Sebastien Loeb and Fabian Lurquin’s BRX Hunter home by 12 minutes. Martin Prokop and Viktor Chytka’s Ford Raptor was an even more surprised third. It was a turnaround behind them too. Argentine Luciano Alvarez and Araman Monelon’s Hilux popped up in fourth. From Russian Vladimir Vasilyev and Oleg Uperenko’s BMW X5, Sebastian Halpern and Bernardo Graue’s Mini Buggy. And de Villiers and Murphy provisionally 7th.

Of the South African car competitors, Taye Perry navigating for Cyril Despres in their Peugeot 3008 ended up 11th. Shameer Variawa and Danie Stassen’s Gazoo Hilux 21st, one place clear of Chris Visser and Rodney Burke’s Century. All three crews benefited through all the late drama. Century duo Ernest Roberts and Henry Kohne were 29th, while Schalk Burger and Henk Janse van Vuuren 57th. And navigator Ryan Bland’s WCT Red-Lined VK50 was running 41st.

‘Chucky’ Sanders took advantage of his ideal starting position on the bikes and led from the outset on his Gas Gas, with Argentine Pablo Quintanilla’s Honda chasing all the way. They ultimately broke away from a group comprising third man, Spain’s Lorenzo Santolino’s Sherco, Austrian Matthias Walkner’s KTM, French privateer, Marquis Xavier de Soultrait’s Husqvarna and countryman, Adrien van Beveren’s Yamaha, among others.

Botswana’s Branch in the bike top 10

Previous winners, Brit Kevin Benavides and Toby Price’ KTMs, Sam Sunderland’s Gas Gas, Californian Ricky Brabec’s Honda, rookie compatriot Mason Klein’s KTM, Honda hotshot Juan Barreda and Botswana hero Ross Branch’s Yamaha all ran in the top ten for most of the day, but those tricky last stages reshuffled the bike order too. Sanders led Quintanilla, Walkner, Klein, Santolino, van Beveren, de Soultrait, Sunderland Skyler Howes and Branch home.

The other Southern Africans had mixed days — it was good for SA super sub Aaron Mare’s Hero, which climbed to 12th, while rookie 2020 SA OR1 Charan Moore champion had a great day to provisionally end up 28th on his KTM. It was an up and down day for rookie SA champion Bradley Cox. He bounced back to 28th after losing time early on and plummeting to 53rd at the first waypoint. Before dropping back to provisionally finish 34th.

Botswana rider John Kelly enjoyed a good run, trading positions with Moore well inside the top 40 for most of the day. But he hit trouble and lost an hour to plummet down the order before the penultimate checkpoint to end up 62nd. Stuart Gregory broke into the top 60 in 58th, while Mozambican Paulo Oliveira was 82nd, and Werner Kennedy and Swazi Walter Terblanche 123rd and 124th among the 143 bikers.

Monday is a Marathon Day

Araon Domzala and Maciej Marton led Rodrigo de Oliveira and Maykal Justo, and Austin Jones and Gustavo Gugelmin’s Can Ams home in the Side by Sides with SA crew Geoff Minnitt and Siegfried Rousseau provisionally 18th. Red Bull OT3 duo, US lads Seth Quintero and Dennis Zenz and Giulliaume de Mevius and Kellon Walch led Francisco Contardo and Pablo Vinagre’s Can Am in the UTVs.

Lithuanian Laisvydas Kanicus took a surprise quad win from Russian Aleksandr Maksimov and US rider Pablo Copetti’s Yamahas. The trucks were still racing at the time of writing. Russian Kamaz duo Sotnikov and Nikolaiev were in complete control, but Aleš Loprais stole third in his Praga. Sunday’s 338 km run from Hail to Aratawiya is not just a tough one with chains of dunes. It is also the first day of the marathon stage with no servicing overnight…


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