Nasser Al-Attiyah gave Toyota Gazoo Racing the early advantage in the 2018 Dakar Rally as he was fastest in the opening stage on Saturday.
The Qatari driver, twice a winner of the Dakar in 2011 and 2015, set a time of twenty-one minutes and fifty-one seconds in his Toyota Hilux to lead the way, with team-mate Bernhard ten Brinke his closest challenger, twenty-five seconds back.
Peruvian racer Nicholas Fuchs ended the stage thirty-eight seconds back in third place for Borgward, with the leading X-raid Mini competitor, Bryce Menzies, four seconds further behind in fourth in their two-wheel-drive buggy, just ahead of his team-mate Nani Roma, who was the best of those driving Mini’s four-wheel- drive John Cooper Rally cars.
Giniel de Villiers ended sixth for Toyota ahead of stable-mate Lucio Alvarez, while Mirko Hirvonen (Mini), Jakub Przygonski (Mini) and Martin Prokop (Ford) completed the top ten.
Reigning Dakar Rally winner Stephane Peterhansel missed out on the top ten in the leading of the Peugeot runners, ending two minutes and fifteen seconds off the pace of Al-Attiyah, with team-mates Cyril Despres and Carlos Sainz Sr. fifteenth and sixteenth respectively.
Sebastien Loeb endured a tough first day in the fourth Peugeot, with the Frenchman suffering brake issues early on during the stage, and he struggled until the end of the stage, losing five minutes and thirty-seven seconds to the stage winner.
Reigning Dakar Rally bikes victor Sam Sunderland started the 2018 event in the perfect manner, as he took the opening stage win on his KTM by thirty-three seconds.
The Briton set the pace with a stage time of twenty minutes and fifty-five seconds, with Yamaha’s Adrien van Beveren ending second ahead of Husqvarna’s Pablo Quintanilla, who was fifty-six seconds down on Sunderland.
One second further back was the leading Monster Energy Honda Team rider Joan Barreda, while Xavier De Soultrait completed the top five for Yamaha ahead of Matthias Walkner (KTM), Franco Caimi (Yamaha), Daniel Nosiglia (KTM), Antoine Meo (KTM) and Kevin Benavides (Honda).
Ignacio Casale took the opening stage win in the Quads, with the Chilean setting a time of twenty-seven minutes and thirty-two seconds on his Yamaha, exactly a minute clear of his closest rival Sergei Kariakin, also on a Yamaha.
Pablo Copetti, Nicolás Cavigilasso and Rafał Sonik made it a quintet of Yamaha’s at the front of the field in third, fourth and fifth respectively, with Kess Koolen the best non-Yamaha in sixth, the Dutchman riding with Barren Racer, but he was over four minutes off the pace of Casale.
Ales Loprais set the pace in the trucks class, with the Czech driver setting a best time of twenty-five minutes and fifteen seconds aboard his Tatra, twenty-two seconds clear of Martín Van den Brink of Renault.
Defending Trucks class winner Eduard Nikolaev was a further seven seconds back in third for Kamaz, while Ton van Genugten made it four different manufacturers inside the top four, with the Iveco driver one minute and eleven seconds down on Loprais, but seven seconds ahead of Kamaz driver Anton Shibalov.
Anibal Aliaga was the pacesetter in the UTV class, with the Polaris driver more than three minutes faster than his closest rival.
The Peruvian set a time of thirty-one minutes and twenty-seven seconds, with fellow Polaris driver José Peña Campos three minutes and one second back in second, with Claudio Fournier making it a trio of Polaris drivers in third.
Portuguese racer Pedro de Mello Breyner was fourth in his Yamaha, three minutes and forty-three seconds down, but three seconds ahead of another Yamaha driver in Camelia Liparoti.