Chilean rider Francisco Lopez claimed the early lead of the 2012 Dakar after setting the fastest time onboard his factory Aprilia in Argentina. The 36 year old completed the short 57km special stage in 32m 37s to lead 2011 Dakar winner Marc Coma by 14s.
In what was a relatively simple introduction to the 2012 event many of the top men elected to ride conservatively on day one with three time Dakar winner Cyril Despres an uncharacteristically low 14th place. After the timed special stage competitors has to complete the longest liason stage of the entire event with a massive 763km to Santa Rosa la Pampa.
Speaking about his stage win, Lopez said: “I started very fast this morning because the first part of the special stage was hard and there were many spectators. The Dakar´s first stage must always be faced with caution, avoiding risks and it is useful to take the race rhythm. Fortunately, the last 20 km were fast and I succeeded guiding in an aggressive way, showing of the power of my Aprilia.”
Argentinean rider Javier Pizzolito stormed to third position onboard his Honda Argentina CRF450X with another Honda rider Quinn Cody in fourth spot.
Polish rider Jakub Przygonski secured fifth spot onboard his KTM ahead of Juan Bort in sixth riding the Speedbrain Husqvarna Rally 450RR.
Dubai based Brit, Sam Sunderland exceeded all expectations in his first ever Dakar appearance to end stage one in seventh spot. The 22 year old is a highly regarded motocrosser and was confident in his speed on the bike before the event, but knows that good navigation will be the key to maintaining this level of result.
Irishman Stan Watt had a disappointing opening day to end the stage down in 87th position after finishing 11m 11s behind the leaders.
British rider Tobias Younger successfully negotiated the opening stage claiming 167th place with Jago Pickering in 172nd spot.
Stage two of the Dakar will see a far more intense and challenging day of competition as the riders leave Santa Rosa la Pampa and head to San Rafael. In total there will be 782km of riding with 487km liason and long 295km timed special stage.