Frenchman Xavier de Soultrait grabbed the headlines on stage 1 of the 2017 Dakar Rally with victory.
The privateer Yamaha rider was fastest on the 39-kilometre long stage in Paraguay over Sherco’s Juan Pedrero and Honda’s Ricky Brabec.
- Xavier de Soultrait fastest on stage 1 of Dakar 2017
- It was de Soultrait’s debut stage win
- Juan Pedrero tops the general standings for Sherco
- De Soultrait picked up a speeding penalty in liaison
- Defending champ Toby Price 17th fastest
- Laia Sanz 24th fastest
- The special stage was 39 kilometre long in Paraguay
For the first time in its history, the Dakar Rally visited Paraguay to launch the 2017 edition from the capital Asuncion for a sole and single stage with a 39-kilometre special.
Paraguay became the 29th country to welcome the Dakar, boasting a superb setting with lush jungle-like vegetation favoured by a tropical climate. This made for a technically tricky route and trial-like tracks.
After withdrawing in 2016, de Soultrait grabbed his debut special stage victory on day one of 2017 ahead of two other outsiders, Juan Pedrero (Sherco) and Ricky Brabec (Honda).
“Winning a stage in the Dakar is incredible and it's already a step upwards,” told De Soultrait.
“However, it's not my ultimate goal — I want to win the Dakar. Why not this year? I'm putting the pieces of the puzzle in place little by little and things are starting to take shape!”
While de Soultrait was the quickest he won’t top the general classification having picked up a speeding penalty on the liaison stage. This will mean Pedrero will be tasked with opening stage 2.
Honda’s Michael Metge completed the day's top four, with Paulo Goncalves (Honda) fifth. Teammate Joan Barreda grabbed the seventh best time despite a problem in a ford.
Splitting the Honda quartet, Sam Sunderland was first KTM home in sixth.
Other notable finishes were 10th for Ivan Cervantes, Pablo Quintanilla 12th, 14th Stefan Svitko — runner-up in 2016 — Pela Renet 19th and Laia Sanz 24th.
As the rider to open the course on day one, defending Dakar champ Toby Price took things steady to bring his KTM home in 17th.
“It was a short day on the stage, but now we've got a three-hundred and fifty kilometre liaison ride to get to the end of it.
“Being the first one to start and it being the first day, everyone gets excited. There were a lot of people right near the track and a bit of wildlife, so I just took it nice and easy.”
Stage 2 sees the Dakar move in Argentina. It will be an 800 kilometre day including 275 kilometres of special stage between Resistencia and San Miguel de Tucuman.
Results - Stage 1
General Classification After Stage 2 (Top 18)