Sunderland lands the first blow
Sam Sunderland claims KTM's first win of the year!
Speedster Sam Sunderland delivered on his promise at the end of an opening special just 175 km long, beating Paulo Gonçalves (Honda) by a slim margin to claim KTM's first win of the year. Marc Coma and Joan Barreda had an uneventful day on the saddle, biding their time for when the race reaches rougher terrain.
Despite a streak of bad luck during his first two Dakar starts with Honda, Sam Sunderland showed glimpses of his speed when he took the second stage of the 2014 edition. He made good on this promise during today's opening stage from Buenos Aires to Villa Carlos Paz, in which he took his second stage win in the biggest rally on Earth.
Reunited with his KTM after its transatlantic crossing, the Englishman masterfully used his motorcycle's qualities to steal the thunder from teammate Marc Coma, who finished the stage over a minute back. He now has good reason to reassess his goals, although the 25-year-old knows that the race is long and the competition will be fierce.
Amends in South America
Paulo Gonçalves, for instance, wants to make amends in South America. The Portuguese 2013 rally world champion broke down in tears when his Honda burst into flames during the fifth stage of the 2014 Dakar. With a narrow five-second deficit to Sunderland after the inaugural stage, Gonçalves is determined to do well, just like Coma, who aims to crush pretenders to his throne. The Spaniard, third in today's stage, will not have to deal with Cyril Despres, but he will have to keep a watchful eye on fourth-placed Joan Barreda. Alain Duclos and his Sherco finished in fifth place, two minutes behind the winner but ahead of Jeremías Israel and fellow countryman David Casteu.
There was also a stunning rookie performance by motocross rider Matthias Walkner, who clinched a solid eighth place in today's warm-up stage, while Olivier Pain and Jordi Viladoms were extra cautious and conceded over 3′30″.
Robby Gordon gets enthusiastic welcome by Dakar fans
Dakar rally 2015 off to a start - Tim & Tom are on tour