Sébastien Loeb’s bid to win the Dakar Rally 2017 is off to solid start after a dominant win in Stage 2.
After admitting he played it safe in Monday’s short 39km sprint, the Frenchman powered to first place in Tuesday’s special stage.
Facing the riders and drivers was a technical and at times narrow 275km timed stage which formed part of the day’s 803km route.
Nine-time WRC World Champion Loeb was much fancied at the start line in his Team Peugeot car as the day resembled that of a WRC stage in dusty conditions.
Nasser Al-Attiyah came out the blocks quickest though fresh from winning on Monday and having running repairs done to his car after it caught fire.
But Loeb was masterful behind the wheel and after taking the lead at the first checkpoint he wasn’t to be denied and finished with a time of 2.06.55, one minute 23 seconds ahead of Al-Attiyah. He said afterwards: « I had a good drive and the car was working perfectly with no problems. The stage wasn’t set up for me as it was very fast with a lot of straights all the time. It is a very special stage but we will have to wait and see what happens over the coming days. »
Carlos Sainz completed the top three, crossing the line just one second ahead of Giniel de Villiers.
Toby Price evidently wants to keep his Dakar Rally title after a stunning performance blew away his rivals on Stage 2 and sent him top of the leaderboard.
The first Australian to ever win the Dakar, riding his KTM Factory Racing bike, impressively sent a strong message to the rest of the field by leading at all three checkpoints and posting a time of 2.37.32 which was too much for teammate Matthias Walkner who finished second, more than three minutes back.
Price said: “Today was a lot of speed, fast roads and dust. We also had to deal with a lot of animals. It wasn’t a tricky day of navigation but it becomes a difficult day when cows pop up all over the place.