6 Jan 2014

Sousa leads Dakar Rally

3:16 pm on 6 January 2014

Portugal's Carlos Sousa, driving a Chinese Haval, has won the opening stage of the 36th Dakar Rally in Argentina.

on Sunday, but double defending champion Stephane Peterhansel lost time after suffering a puncture.

Sousa finished the 180km special from Rosario to San Luis just ahead of the Mini's of Argentina's Orlando Terranova and Qatar's 2011 champion Nasser Al-Attiyah.

Defending champion Stephane Peterhansel of France, in a third Mini, and seeking a 12th overall title (after six on motorcycles and five in cars), suffered a puncture and is in sixth place.

Honda's Joan Barreda leads the motorcycle section from Spanish compatriot Marc Coma on a KTM, with defending champion Cyril Despres of France third.

This year, 431 vehicles, taking part in the auto, motorbike, quad and lorry events, will cross Argentina, Bolivia and Chile.

But they could run into environmental protests along the way with fears over the impact of the race on the world's highest salt flats at Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia, despite only the motorcycles being allowed to cross into the country.

In Chile, concerns have been raised over possible damage caused by the vehicles roaring over the Inca Trail.

The Rally is now held in South America following security concerns in North Africa.