4 Jan 2009

BMW wins opening stage of Dakar Rally

8:50 am on 4 January 2009

Qatar's Nasser Al-Attiyah, driving a BMW, has won the opening stage of the 2009 Dakar Rally as defending champions Mitsubishi struggled.

Volkswagen filled the next three places with former world rally champion Carlos Sainz taking second.

Luc Alphand, the 2006 champion, was the best-placed Mitsubishi driver in fifth place while his French compatriot, and defending champion Stephane Peterhansel, was sixth.

He won the Dakar in 2007, the last time the gruelling event was staged.

But the 2008 edition was cancelled at the last moment after the murder of four French tourists in Mauritania by Al-Qaeda-linked terrorists, an act that prompted race organisers to switch the Dakar to Argentina and Chile, 7,000km away from the Senegalese capital.

Spain's Marc Coma of KTM won the opening motorcycle stage.

This year's race, which ends in Buenos Aires on the 17th of January, features 540 competitors from 50 countries and covers 9,000 kilometres spread over 13 stages - three in Chile and 10 in Argentina.

The second stage runs from Santa Rosa to Puerto Madryn with a 237km special.