Dakar 2017 Stage One: Cars & Bikes

#Dakar2017 Stage 01 is always a little odd because of how short it is. The big names are still up front but seeing a Ford up front is likely not going to happen again, so enjoy that. Without Robby Gordon, we at least have Ricky Brabec if you want to cheer for the home-country. Dakar is strange enough that Ricky Brabec’s Honda ride and 9th place finish last year still makes him the new guy and underdog; KTM is such a dominant force after their long fight against BMW (things are weird when Honda looks like the little guy, no?). Toby Price of Australia is just one of the KTM hit squad, but he happens to be the Stage 01 winner. Did I mention he won the 2016 Dakar? Oh yeah, there’s that.

Ricky Brabec washes the Honda's undercarriage in a stage 01 water crossing.
Ricky Brabec washes the Honda’s undercarriage in a stage 01 water crossing.

Toyota has fired the opening shot well, taking a stage win and then setting Nasser Al-Attiyah’s engine bay on fire. Don’t worry, no major damage. It just isn’t Dakar without drama. The fight will be exiting for the cars. Mini might be getting pushed into the weeds by the current rules, but we will see when the competitors hit different terrain. It’s two weeks of racing in three countries after all. A 39km special stage doesn’t exactly show us much aside from what color everyone has decided for this year’s livery.

The fact that their brand is not sweeping the front of the field on day one does not tell us much, but it does show that rule tweaks, combined with Peugeot and Toyota’s improvements, has narrowed the chasm that was obviously developing. The list of drivers Peugeot has should make it obvious that they remain the favored marque for victory. As a fan of the Toyota Hilux, I remain an obvious fan of DeVillers and his smart, consistent driving approach no matter what the odds-makers say. Harumph.

Carlos Sainz is one of the many legends Peugeot is using to secure Dakar victory
Carlos Sainz is one of the many legends Peugeot is using to secure Dakar victory

The real action is today on stage 02. There will be 275km of special stage (the actual timed portion) out of the 800km of travel competitors will take. And of course there is the trucks and quads. Dakar is too big to bite off in one sitting, but here is what the cars and bikes were up to:

How To Watch

The official website has live timing and an app you can download along with rider info. The above video is on the official Dakar English youtube channel which posts daily recaps of each stage (late, about 8-9pm Pacific time). Hardcore fans who are retired or unemployed can wade into advrider.com’s f5irehose thread and be swarmed with information. They also have a resource thread showing where to find stage information, live TV coverage (from Europe of South America), how to use the live timing, and so on.

You can also be cool like me and watch Lyndon Poskitt (#100). He did the dream big like we all want to, but with a twist. After getting bored with work as an aerospace engineer in Britain, he sold everything and, instead of just touring the world, he created Races to Places. He is entering rallies on every continent, riding his race bike around the world and competing in events large and small, unassisted.

Lyndon Poskitt
Lyndon Poskitt

Dakar is big enough to take on, but Lyndon does it along with others in a special category where you do all work yourself. Your tools and spares are crated and shipped to the finish line in the morning. You must race, then perform maintenance, then feed yourself, do your mapbook for the next day, and perhaps update fans. Sleep, perhaps? Good luck if something breaks. You will be up all night, and you will be penalized if you are late to the start line.

The best part? He’s fast. You can’t expect a guy doing his own work and crowd funding his efforts to be chasing top-ten glory, but this man can ride. “Heart” is a word that comes to mind, but that is often thrown around as a door prize for people that want to do but can’t. Lyndon can and does. What a show. And Dakar is full of dozens of these stories.

And don't forget the trucks...
And don’t forget the trucks…

 

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