Countdown. Revs up. Clutch out. And with a roar the Dakar Rally exploded into life today. With three riders finishing the special in the top six, the race for Team HRC is most definitely underway.
Yesterday, was a chance for the riders to lap up a warm welcome from the thousands of fans gathered along the streets of Buenos Aires. Today, an altogether harsher greeting awaited as the first stage took to the track. Team HRC’s five riders all finished in the first seventeen positions.
The first of the Dakar's specials, at only 175 kilometers, was barely enough to unfold any significant differences, but already the pecking order is beginning to establish itself. Paulo Gonçalves rode a cracking pace aboard the HondaCRF450 RALLY, to finish in second, just five seconds behind the special's winner.
The squad arrived at the bivouac in Villa Carlos Paz after a lengthy liaison section of around 500 kilometers, where preparations for the second stage are already underway. The stage will be disputed tomorrow between Villa Carlos Paz and San Juan. The first dunes of the Rally Dakar 2015 will be there to welcome the participants.
Paulo Goncalves - 2nd + 00'05:
The first special served as a good warm-up. 175 kilometers and 700 liaison. It went well, with a second place, which was great. But it’s a very long and hard rally. You must have great team-work, be very focused, not make any mistakes and keep the mechanical and physical aspect in as good shape as possible, as this is not only a very long race, but a very tough one too.
A very quick stage, we got up to some high speeds, and it was difficult, as there was some damaged track due to the rain of the last couple of days. I caught up with Marc, but I stayed behind, taking it calmly. Let’s see how the next few stages go.
15 PEDRERO Joan SPA Sherco Rally Factory Sherco + 4'30
16 PIZZOLITO Javier ARG Honda South America Rally Team Honda + 4'32
** 17 SANZ Laia SPA Team HRC Honda + 4'46**
STAGE 2 – Monday, 5th January
Villa Carlos Paz (ARG) – San Juan (ARG)
Liaison: 107 km
Special stage: 518 km
The longest stage:
Any rest will be short-lived, because before reaching San Juan, the competitors will have a particularly busy schedule: quite simply the longest special stage in the rally, which is varied enough to unsettle even the most experienced of drivers. Hard terrain at the start of the race will be followed by dusty sections in the middle of the day and a sandy stretch to finish. This is the first real test, which can only be successfully overcome through constant vigilance.