LEADER: Haval driver Carlos Sousa and co-pilot Miguel Ramalho race through a creek during the first stage of the Dakar Rally in Argentina.
LEADER: Haval driver Carlos Sousa and co-pilot Miguel Ramalho race through a creek during the first stage of the Dakar Rally in Argentina. VICTOR R CAIVANOAAP

Portguese driver defies the heat to take first stage victory

PORTUGUESE driver Carlos Sousa took advantage of a puncture suffered by defending champion Stephane Peterhansel to lead the 2014 Dakar Rally after the first stage in Argentina yesterday.

Sousa, driving a Chinese-made Haval, completed the 180km stage from Rosario to San Luis in 2hrs 20mins 36secs. Argentina's Orlando Terranova was 11 seconds back in his Mini, with 2011 champion, Qatar's Nasser Al-Attiyah, coming in third, also in a Mini.

Sousa had a simple explanation for why he drove so fast.

"Our car doesn't have air conditioning and all the air inlets got clogged. After 50 kilometres, the turbo air outlet broke down and sent all the air directly towards me," he said.

"It must have got hotter than 70 degrees centigrade and we had trouble breathing.

"The reason I drove so fast was that I wanted to get out of that inferno - we suffered like dogs."

Honda's Joan Barreda clocked 2hrs 25mins 31secs to lead the motorcycle stage by 37 seconds from Spanish compatriot Marc Coma on a KTM. Defending champion, Frenchman Cyril Despres started his quest for a sixth victory in the race by finishing third in the stage.


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