Qatari Nasser Al-Attiyah defended his status as champion of the Dakar Rally on Monday, winning the first stage of the legendary race.
Driving a Toyota, Al-Attiyah overcame mechanical problems both at the start and shortly before the finish of the first stage, which covered a looping 454-kilometre stretch of dirt and dust from the Paraguayan capital Asuncion to Resistencia in Argentina.
Al-Attiyah set the pace, completing the timed section in 25 minutes and 41 seconds.
In the motorbike section, Australian Toby Price who took out the race in 2016 finished the opening stage in 17th, one minute and 25 seconds off the pace.
This is the ninth time the race is being staged in South America
A group of Spaniards – Xavi Pons in a Ford; Nani Roma in a Toyota; and Carlos Sainz in a Peugeot – finished second, third and fourth in the car division respectively. Al-Attiyah won the Dakar Rally last year and in 2011.
Tuesday’s second stage will cross 803 kilometres through the Chaco region west of San Miguel de Tucuman, Argentina.
The 39th edition of the rally is taking place in Paraguay, Argentina and Bolivia in 12 stages covering almost 9,000 kilometres. The rally is scheduled to conclude January 14 in Buenos Aires.
Almost 400 vehicles, including motorcycles and quads competing in separate divisions, drove Sunday from just outside Asuncion across the promenade along the Paraguay River to a symbolic start in front of the government palace.