The 46th edition of the Dakar Rally kicked off with a 27-kilometer prologue. Around Al Ula, participants immediately got a nice taste of sand and stones.
The results will determine the starting position for the first real stage, although the order of the top ten will still be shaken up. Whoever drives the fastest time will have the privilege of choosing when to start on Saturday. The times do not yet count toward the overall standings.
Nasser Al-Attiyah, who left the familiar nest of Toyota for Prodrive Hunter, opened the ball as the defending champion, but would not be the fastest at the finish line. A time of 17:31 was not enough for a first "stage win," as his teammate Sebastien Loeb dived right under it with 17:08.
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Audi get off to electric start
In recent days there has been some noise surrounding Audi, which is entering the race with an electric-powered car.
Al-Attiyah announced that Audi would go home after three days because of poor reliability. There was no sign of that in the short prologue. Indeed, Mattias Ekstrom was the fastest with a time of 16:30.
Who also left a good impression was Seth Quintero. The rookie Toyota driver came over from the SSV class and drove the second fastest time right away. Loeb would eventually finish in third place, ahead of the Baumgart brothers, who finished fourth and fifth.
Tim and Tom Coronel also got off to a start, crossing the line 5 minutes from the day's winner further down the order.