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Toyota Gazoo Racing South Africa driver Nasser Al-Attiyah topped the opening stage of the 2019 Dakar Rally in Peru.
The Qatari completed the dune-populated 52-mile timed stage near Pisco, which came after a lengthy road section that started at Peruvian capital Lima, in 1h01m41s.
Al-Attiyah, a two-time Dakar winner whose most recent triumph came in 2015, ran second on the road behind last year’s victor Carlos Sainz Sr.
His Toyota Hilux set the pace at both waypoints and ultimately caught up with Sainz’s X-raid Mini buggy by the time they completed the stage.
Sainz held on to second place, nearly two minutes behind Al-Attiyah, but was just one second clear of the lead X-raid Mini 4×4 car of FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies champion Jakub Przygonski.
Al-Attiyah’s Gazoo Racing SA team-mates Bernhard ten Brinke and Giniel de Villiers were both outpaced by the privateer Hilux of Vladimir Vasilyev.
The Russian, returning to the Dakar after instead competing in the Africa Eco Race for two years, was fourth, leading Mini 4×4 driver Yazeed Al-Rajhi, while de Villiers made up the top six and ten Brinke took eighth behind event legend Stephane Peterhansel’s Mini buggy.
Sebastien Loeb, competing in a PH Sport-run Peugeot 3008 DKR, had a quiet start to his stint as a Dakar privateer, finishing outside the top 10 with a six-minute gap to Al-Attiyah.
He was beaten by both of his PH Sport team-mates, Harry Hunt and Pierre Lachaume.
Hunt slotted into ninth ahead Mini buggy driver Cyril Despres – who had swapped co-drivers with Peterhansel for the 2019 edition as both moved from Peugeot to X-raid.