Giniel leaves the wheel in the desert


South Africa’s Giniel de Villiers and Dennis Murphy finished the first stage of the killer Dakar off-road rally in third place.

The Toyota Gazoo Racing participants finished just nine minutes after the eventual stage winners, Guillaume de Mévius and Xavier Panseri of Overdrive Racing.

It was a good day for the Toyota men: In addition to De Villiers and Murphy’s success, the team of Lucas Moraes and Armand Monleon finished sixth, while Guy Botterill and Brett Cummings finished seventh.

However, it was a difficult day for Nasser Al-Attiyah.

The defending champion wants to race away with the Dakar laurels for the sixth time in his career this year. But he got the wind from the front in his American Hunter.

He finished the stage together with Mathieu Baumel in 21st place; more than 24 minutes behind the leaders.

In the motorcycle section, Botswana’s Ross Branch stole the limelight.

The 37-year-old star, who is competing in his sixth Dakar Rally, rushed to Tosha Schareina’s aid after the Spanish competitor fell.

The 25 minutes he used to help his opponent was deducted from his race time and he won the stage.

According to Branch, he didn’t think twice about helping Schareina.

“We had to stop and provide help; that is why we are here. If it was me lying on the ground, I know he would have helped me too.”

Results (first leg):

  1. Guillaume de Mévius and Xavier Panseri (Overdrive Racing): 04:35:59
  2. Carlos Sainz and Lucas Cruz (Team Audi Sport): 04:37:43
  3. Giniel de Villiers and Dennis Murphy (Toyota Gazoo Racing): 04:45:17
  4. Vaidotas Zala and Paulo Fiuza (X-Raid Arijus Team): 04:46:41
  5. Romain Dumas and Max Delfino (Rebellion Racing): 04:48:17
  6. Lucas Moraes and Armand Monleon (Toyota Gazoo Racing): 04:49:24
  7. Guy Botterill and Brett Cummings (Toyota Gazoo Racing): 04:49:38
  8. Yazeed Al Rajhi and Timo Gottschalk (Overdrive Racing): 04:49:38
  9. Mathieu Searradori and Loic Minaudier (Century Racing Factory Team): 04:50:11
  10. Mattias Ekstrom and Emil Bergkvist (Team Audi Sport): 04:50:19

Motorcycle results (first stage):

  1. Ross Branch (Hero): 04:56:01
  2. Ricky Brabec (Monster Energy): 05:06:55
  3. Mason Klein (Corr Offroad): 05:07:20.