The 42nd DAKAR has started! On Sunday, the participants covered the distance of the first stage from Jeddah to Al-Wajh. Saudi Arabia hosts the legendary rally marathon for the first time that gives a special atmosphere to the race.
This is a new chapter in the rally history, which means that DAKAR is completely new for all participants: unfamiliar sections and special stages, as well as totally new bivouacs, the first of which is waiting for racers tonight in Al Wajh. The DAKAR organizers located it very good – it is established on the Red Sea shores.
The distance of the first day special stage from Jeddah towards Al Wajh was 319 competitive kilometers. Such a significant length of the route cannot be called typical for the starting stage. The more difficult it was for absolutely all the DAKAR rally participants – in a new country, on unfamiliar territory, they immediately faced a serious challenge. But all drivers and riders are on an equal footing – none of the favorites has the advantage of knowing the local route features.
The special stage opening the 2020 race began with winding roads in canyons and dry river beds. From the very start, the field tackled the first dunes and bumps with small sandy hills and soft sand. However, the racers had a short-term opportunity to take a breath – the 19-km neutralization zone, where they had to drive on tarmac surface. Then there was a new segment of the race distance – speed sections on the sandy plateau, where terrain association was complicated by a large number of regular and parallel tracks. After that, the track went to canyons and dried riverbeds again, where the co-drivers faced very difficult navigation. And at the very finish of the first stage, a sandy impassability with a lot of vegetation and wider, faster canyons began.
The first special stage for the Car standings participants, where Vladimir VASILYEV and Vitaliy Yevtyekhov are performing in the MINI JCW Rally supported by Gazpromneft Lubricants, was very difficult. An interesting fight, unexpected results, the downfall of favorites, many punctured wheels – there has been everything today!
Unfortunately, not the most pleasant news began to come from the first kilometers of the distance. At the 47thkm of the special stage, one of the DAKAR favorites, Yazeed Al Rajhi, lost almost 11 minutes to the head of the race, Nasser Al-Attiyah, and set only the 40th time. And after another 20 kilometers, Roman Dumas stopped - the RD Limited buggy, created by his own team, caught fire. Perhaps, this is the end of the race for the Frenchman.
Jakub Przygonski, who took the third place, stopped at the 146th km of the first special stage because of the gearbox breakdown. For several hours, the Pole was trying to bring his MINI back to life and eventually managed to get to the finish line; he took the last place and lost six hours to the special stage winner.
Nasser Al-Attiyah took the leadership from the very start. The Qatari led the race for most of the first special stage, but less than a hundred kilometers from the finish line it was his turn to face problems. Three punctured wheels resulted in a loss of about ten minutes. As a result, Al-Attiyah finished only with a fourth result.
So the top three winners at the first special stage finish were the crews performing in MINI cars. Unexpectedly for everyone, the Lithuanian racer Vaidotas Zala, performing in the “customer” MINI All4Racing, set the best time – he won the DAKAR special stage for first time. Stephane Peterhansel finished the second, and Carlos Sainz rounded out the top three – Frenchman and Spaniard, representing the X-raid factory team, drive the rear-wheel Mini JCW Buggies.
Toyota drivers Nasser Al-Attiyah and Bernhard ten Brinke have the fourth and fifth results today. Mathieu Serradori set the sixth time. The next ones are Orlando Terranova in MINI and Yazeed Al Rajhi.
The X-raid G-Energy Team crew of Vladimir VASILYEV and Vitaliy Yevtyekhov increased the pace during the special stage, winning back the positions from their rivals. On the first kilometers, the Russian-Ukrainian duet was at the 16th place, thanks to four punctured wheels, but finished in the top ten with the ninth result. Eric van Loon, Fernando Alonso, Martin Prokop, Khalid Al Qassimi, Giniel de Villiers, Benediktas Vanagas, Nani Roma, Wei Han and many other strong opponents were behind VASILYEV at the finish line.
Vladimir VASILYEV became the best Russian driver at the first day finish. His compatriots Denis Krotov and Alexander Dorossinskij finished in 21st and 22nd positions respectively.
In the Truck standings, where the G-Energy logo is placed on the MAZ-SPORTauto team vehicles, many events have also occurred during the special stage distance.
The KAMAZ-master team drivers Andrey Karginov and Dmitry Sotnikov took the leadership from the start, Martin van den Brink was the third. However, both leaders and their rivals either went up in the virtual results table or fell down. It was impossible to name the top three up to the finish line – it completely changed fifty kilometers before the special stage completion.
Van den Brink left the leading group first – it happened at the end of the first third of the special stage distance. Dmitry Sotnikov, on the contrary, rolled back at the beginning of the final third, and Andrey Karginov lost leadership at the very finish.
Anton Shibalov (KAMAZ-master) became the winner of the first DAKAR 2020 special stage in the Truck standings; Sergey VYAZOVICH, the MAZ-SPORTauto team driver in the bonneted truck of the Minsk Automobile Plant, lost him one and a half minutes. The third place was taken by Janus van Kasteren Jr.
Dmitry Sotnikov finished the fourth, Martin Macik rounded out the top five. The next ones are Martin Soltys and Andrey Karginov.
Alexander VASILEVSKY, another Belarusian team driver, took the eighth place; Ales Loprais (Tatra), Eduard Nikolaev (KAMAZ) and Alexey VISHNEVSKY (MAZ), who took 11th place, rushed to the finish line after him.
WHAT PARTICIPANTS WILL FIND TOMORROW
The surface nature at the second stage will change significantly. If the surface during more than a third of the first special stage consisted of sands and dunes, then on the second day the participants will mainly drive prime coat and stones – only five percent of the special stage distance will be in the sands. It means that we can see the new “epidemic of punctures” that complicated the life of the racers at the first special stage. In addition, on the second day participants will find navigation tasks again – it will be complicated by a large number of regular and parallel tracks, where they will need to choose the right route.