Lithuanian pilot Vaidotas Zala (Mini) this Sunday gave the bell at the Dakar to win the first stage ahead of all the favorite drivers of the rally, including Fernando Alonso (Toyota), which debuted with a remarkable performance where he was 15 minutes from the first leader of the race.
At the wheel of one of Mini's 4x4s, Zala was the car faster of the day to complete in 3 hours, 19 minutes and 4 seconds the timed stretch of the inaugural stage, which was 319 kilometers between the Saudi cities of Jeddah and Al Wajh.
The Frenchman Stéphane Peterhansel (Mini), thirteen times winner of the Dakar, was second to 2 minutes and 14 seconds, while Carlos Sainz (Mini), third, was left alone 36 seconds of the French pilot.
Meanwhile, the Qatari Nasser Al Attiyah (Toyota), current Dakar champion, marked the best times in the first sets of the stage, but he was without the triumph of the day because of three pricks in the final part of the route.
Also, the Spanish Joan 'Nani' Roma, who was second in the general classification last year, had a bad debut at the wheel of the German brand Borgward at the end of the day 28 minutes from Zala.
The Lithuanian took the leading role of a day that had begun with the sights set on Fernando Alonso's debut in the Dakar, where he had a remarkable performance at the end of the eleventh position, 15 minutes from the best time.
The Spaniard could roll to the rhythm of the best of the Dakar caravan in some sectors, but the lack of experience and a couple of punctures They didn't allow him to be up in his career premiere.
Unlike in recent years, where the Dakar was inaugurated with a prologue stage of a few kilometers as a warm-up, this time the rally began hard, and a journey on its first day of 752 kilometers, of them 319 timed.
Navigation was not easy either, because it had a bit of everything. First a series of sinuous tracks in canyons and dry rivers and then give way to the first dunes of this Dakar.
Then the pilots crossed a section of interconnected dirt roads where it was easy disorient and then give way to another segment of dry rivers that ended up in a fast and long canyon.
The first Dakar in Arabia is held from January 5 to 17 with departure in Jeddah and final in Qiddiya and a route of almost 8,000 kilometers, of which more than 5,000 timed kilometers, which have been divided into twelve stages plus a rest day in the capital Riad.