Factory Honda rider Joan Barreda drew first blood in the 2014 Dakar by winning the opening stage of the event today. The 30 year old Spaniard finished the 629Km liason stage before setting the fastest time of 2h 25m 31s on the 180km timed special stage.
He secured victory from three time Dakar winner Marc Coma on board his factory KTM by just 37s seconds with five time Dakar winner Cyril Despres riding a factory Yamaha in third place 1m 40s behind.
Barreda said: “It’s been a great day. I’m really pleased for the first win with Honda, especially for the team that has worked so hard the whole year to produce this new bike. I’m really happy to have begun the Dakar like this. Today was a tough one. Few kilometres, but with a very difficult track full of rocks and very slippery. I managed to get off really well in the second part, keep up a good pace and get a result in the end.”
Brit Sam Sunderland made a perfect start to his 2014 Dakar by ending the day with the ninth fastest time on board his factory Honda. The 23 year old took 2h 30m 04s to complete the first timed Special Stage, 4m 33s slower than stage winner Barreda.
Sunderland said: “We’ve finished the first day. A very long special that for us started when we had to get up at 3.00 a.m. More than 800 kilometres and a long liaison too. It was a really intense ride throughout the special. I made a minor error at the beginning and maybe because I changed the settings that punished the rear brake excessively. But in spite of everything, it hasn’t been that bad a stage.”
Brits Paul Jay and Jamie Smith also enjoyed a successful first day with Jay 142nd, 1h 0m 5s behind the leader and Smith156th 1h 18m 27s behind.
At time of writing there were still two competitors from the 174 starters that were yet to complete the opening stage.
Stage two of the Dakar will be a fast one that will conclude with a final 100km of testing sand dunes. In total they will be riding 724km with a long 359km timed Special Stage.