Nasser Al-Attiyah stripped of 2015 Dakar Rally victory
Rio de Janeiro, Jan 5 (IANS)
Qatar's Nasser Al-Attiyah was stripped off victory on the opening stage of the 2015 Dakar Rally for exceeding the time limit while reigning champion Nani Roma's hopes of another victory were dashed.
Driving a Mini, Al-Attiyah, the 2011 champion, had led the Dakar Rally with one hour 12 minutes 50 seconds after the 170 kilometres timed section of 833km stage, reported Xinhua.
However, as the race finished, Al-Attiyah was punished for driving at 68km/h in a section of the stage where the limit was 50km/h and was therefore penalised two minutes and relegated to seventh place.
Home favourite Orlando Terranova, who trailed Al-Attiyah by 22 seconds before the penalty, was then declared the winner ahead of American Robby Gordon from Hummer and South Africa's Giniel de Villiers in a Toyota.
Last year's winner Roma from Mini came to a halt just a few miles from the Buenos Aires start, as he had to wait on the stage for technical assistance, losing over eight hours to the eventual leader and all realistic chance of back-to-back wins.
"We finally got started. That's great and it's the most important thing: the race is on! Unfortunately, I saw Nani (Roma) had trouble very near the start. We wanted to go faster, but this messed up our plans a bit. No worries, this has just begun," said Terranova (Mini).
Peugeot's Dakar return got off to a quiet start, with Carlos Sainz and Stephane Peterhansel driving conservatively in eighth and 10th places. Peugeot returned to the Dakar Rally for the first time in 25 years after winning four consecutive times between 1987 and 1990.
In the motorbike section, Britain's Sam Sunderland on a KTM was fastest in 1:18.57, five seconds faster than Paulo Goncalves of Portugal on a Honda and 1:12 ahead of last year's winner Marc Coma on a KTM.
"It's difficult to judge your strategy based on the first day because you still don't know who's pulled out all the stops," said Sunderland.
The first stage covers more than 800 kilometres from Buenos Aires to the town of Villa Carlos Paz. This year's event, the seventh in South America since its enforced transfer for security reasons from Africa, is the 37th of all time.